Vic Hoyland

ESEM Endymion 60th London


Vic Hoyland - ESEM
(1975) 13' solo double bass and 2 flutes, 2 clarinets. percussion. celeste. electric organ, cello

First performance: Mandeville Centre, La Jolla. San Diego, California. May 24th 1978.
Bertram Turetsky (bass) and Ensemble Sonor, conducted by Bernard Rands: Bernhard Batschelet, Ann Erwin (flutes); Howie Smith, David Carey (clarinets): Athena Bun-Ching Lam (organ); Cecil Lytle (celeste); Peter Farrell (cello).

The first reviews In the USA and the UK:

"An outstandingly beautiful concert of contemporary music... "
"Vic Hoyland, visiting from Britain, had two premieres, Jeux-thème and ESEM. ESEM, a commission from the Sonor bassist Bertram Turetsky. was a fascinating exploration of articulations and shifting textures."
"The challenging rhythmic organization successfully conveyed the character of the four sections suggestive of Earth, Water, Fire and Air."
Louise Spizizen, Los Angeles Times. June 1st, 1978.

"Though the voice is eliminated completely for the first time in Hoyland's work in ESEM, linguistic connotations are even more heavily implicit in its skittering articulation of the four elements. The double boss, almost confined to the treble clef, is no more than primus inter pares: a pair of alto flutes in the final section virtually steal its muted thunder."
Martin Dreyer, Musical Times, 1981

My first acknowledged pieces - EM, ES, Jeux-thème - all employ text(s) and have a theatrical dimension, essential to the performance.

ESEM (plastic) is my first purely instrumental work. The greater part of my output, so far, is entombed in a great mausoleum to modernism - the publisher warehouse for Universal Edition in Vienna. This is my first sight of the score of ESEM for almost 30 years! I don't have a programme note.

ESEM conjoins ES and EM. EM sets the anglo-saxon poem The Ruin and ES employs a text of Erik Satie - "It's a large staircase, very large and made of ivory. No one dare use it for fear of spoiling it". My note for that piece read: "A drift towards disintegration, incommunicable gestures, disconnected thoughts, convulsed feeling, sudden escapes into memory: moments for nothing."

The music I identified with most at that time was French: Debussy, Satie and Messiaen. But, by 1970, Mahler was gaining in significance for me and while composing this little piece I played, over and over again, the first movement of his 9th Symphony. This was music, which put itself together bit by bit, from almost nothing - just scraps of information - into great surges of energy, only to then blow itself out like a flickering candle starved of air. If nothing else. I "got" the physicality of that music and, with that, the expressive intent.

I worked painfully slowly - I still do - with virtually no technique to speak of, only what I had learned from using text; and that was the physicality of speech itself - the basic actions of making sounds with the mouth: consonants (staccato attacks), vowels (sustained tones), fricatives (anything which traps, distorts and disturbs the flow of sound, e.g. flutter-tongue, tremolo) and diphthongs (deflected tones - glissandi and "duiui").

There are four sections to the work and each one focuses on a particular "action" with interference from the others.

1 is on flutter-tongue (fricative)
2 is on "duiui" (diphthong)
3 is on staccato attacks (consonants)
4 is on sustained tones (vowels)

As much as one can be certain about anything at all, these were my first certainties about how I would write my music. 30 years on, the music has gotten significantly more expansive and, dare I say, much more subtle, but the basic tools for building and the considered point of view remain the same.

Vic Hoyland, 2005