SPECTRAL for viola, tape-delay systems and live electronics (1972)

Spectral is played entirely on the solo viola, the bass range of which has been extended by tuning the C-string down to G and then by transposing its sounds down further by digital means. Spectral takes as its starting point the song of the hump-backed whale, of which the opening ARIA is an exact transcription.

The subsequent sections are developments of its individual elements. The tape echoes were suggested by the whale’s submarine acoustic environment, in which its melancholy tones rebound alternately off the sea-bed and the surface as they die away. The title ‘Spectral’ relates not only to the sound/colour spectrum used in the music, but also to the ghostly character of the song in which the whale seems to be singing of its own passing.

© 1972 Tim Souster