Grotesques David Lancaster
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From my office and from my home I can see York Minster and hear its bells; it dominates the skyline and is usually the first thing I see when I return to York from a trip.
The ‘grotesques’ are carvings on the inside and outside of the building, numbering thousands, representing distorted human faces, demons, fantastical creatures and other horrors intended to scare away evil spirits. Each of the canopies in the magnificent Chapter House is adorned with such grotesques: some of them intriguing, others are very rude! Are they modelled on the faces of the craftsmen who built the Minster, or their families, or their masters?
My intention was to compose a series of musical grotesques: short pieces with distinctive musical characteristics, sometimes employing musical distortions (mostly of my own material, but also some pre-existing pieces associated with the Minster, or change ringing patterns used by bell ringers) to convey the notion of the grotesque.
There are five musical grotesques here but they are blended together in one continuous span, allowing the musical characters to form relationships and to explore possibilities of combination and juxtaposition.
The five grotesques are:
1) a squirming melody played in the low register of the flute,
2) a quick, spiky and abrasive ‘fanfare’,
3) a flurry of descending scales which tends to interrupt the continuity,
4) a plaintive melody which is passed between oboe and clarinet, and
5) a sequence of sombre minor chords.
This group of Grotesques was composed in York and Paris during the winter of 2017-18.