Church Acoustics 教会の音響効果


Classical music encompasses music performed in a wide variety of venues. These include concert halls, theatres, dance halls, chamber music venues, the open air, and churches/cathedrals. The intended performance venue is an important consideration during the composition process. Often this is just a matter of scale and scoring. For example, brass fanfares work well outdoors and in large concert halls, but overwhelm a chamber music venue. Sometimes the importance of the intended performance venue relates to acoustics. This is particularly the case with music to be performed in churches, where the roofs are high, the reverberation time is long, and consideration must be given to the building’s religious meanings.

In 2000-2003, I had a phase of writing choral music. This included two works based on religious texts: Requiem (2000) and The Greatest is Love (2003). Requiem was conceived as a symphonic version of the traditional Requiem mass that would work equally well in a concert hall as a church. However, The Greatest is Love is very much a church piece. This is not only a case of the piece’s Biblical subject matter. It is also an issue of orchestration (choir, strings and organ), writing style and acoustics.

I have talked in a previous blog post (see Art & Music) about the idea of composition as “storytelling”. When telling a story in music, ideally there should be a direct line of communication – eye contact, body language, sound projection – from performer to audience. The ambiance is more dramatic. Music for the concert hall or stage can also be more experimental or explore a range of emotions, such as romantic love, perhaps less suited to a religious venue. Conversely, the acoustics of churches are often unsuited to intricate or virtuoso music. The reverberations can muddy the sound and detract from the precision of the playing. Churches also typically have far more “restricted view” seats than concert halls. Audience seating is untiered, the choir may face inwards rather than towards the audience, pillars obstruct the view of many, and some performers (especially organists) may even be completely out of sight.

In churches, the music that works well tends to be more spiritual, slower in tempo, less intricate, and more atmospheric. The default moods for religious music are “heavenly” and “devotional”, which is probably why of all the branches of classical music, religious music has stayed closest melodically and harmonically to the sounds of centuries past. Experimental, dissonant music may dominate new works in the concert hall, but new religious music still tends to adhere to the familiar formula: sound of heavenly quality that gets people looking up to the vault, from where the sound seems to come down as if from the heavens. Music has been powerful in sustaining people’s religious faith. But even if people have lost or never had the faith, there can still be an intense musical experience via religious music performed in a beautiful old church or cathedral.

From the point of view of the composer, therefore, writing a church piece offers an interesting acoustic challenge, and a very different one to writing a piece for the concert hall. I took up the challenge after completing Requiem and The Mill Suite. The Greatest is Love sets to music one of the best loved Biblical texts, I Corinthians 13. What I particularly like about this passage is that its message regarding the nature of love rings true well beyond the realms of Christian teaching. The scoring/writing assumes reverberating church acoustics. The central section (“Love is patient, love is kind, and envies no-one”) contains a slow melody for strings which is among my very favourite passages of music that I have written. And at the end, when the choir sings “There are three things that last for ever. Faith, hope, love. But the greatest is love”, there is a moment for the organ that I can only say I would love to hear one day reverberating throughout the vault of one of England’s magnificent cathedrals. One day, I hope … no, I have faith …

The Greatest is Love was first performed in 2004. As part of the project to publish all my pieces open access it has now been published online by AndArt Music, including the full score and all performance parts.

3 February 2020




以前に投稿したブログ(「Art & Music 美術と音楽」を参照)で、作曲は「ストーリリー・テリング(物語を語ること)」であると例えてお話しました。音楽の中でストーリーを語るとき、理想的には、演奏者から聴き手に向けて直接的なコミュニケーション―アイ・コンタクト、ボディーランゲージ、サウンド・プロジェクション(特定の方向を意識して音楽を届けること)―があるべきです。これにより、会場の雰囲気が高まるでしょう。コンサートホールやステージ向けの音楽はまた、より実験的であったり、ロマンティックな愛といった様々な感情を探究したりすることができますが、宗教的な場にはあまり向かないといえるかもしれません。反対に、教会の音響は、複雑な音楽や技巧的な曲には、大抵の場合向きません。残響が音を濁らせてしまい、演奏の精度を損なう可能性があるのです。また、典型的には、教会はコンサートホール比べて「視野制限」席が遥かに多くあります。観客席は階層化されていませんし、合唱は観客の方ではなく内側を向いている可能性があります。柱が多くの視界を遮り、一部の演奏者(特にオルガニスト)は、完全に視野の外にいることさえあります。


こうしたことから、作曲家の立場からは、教会音楽を書くということは、コンサートホール向けの作品を書くこととは全く異なる、音響上の興味深い挑戦だといえます。私は「レクイエム」と「ミル(水車)組曲」を書き終えてから、これに挑みました。「最も大いなるものは、愛である」では、聖書の最も愛された一節である「コリントの信徒への手紙一」13章に音楽を合わせました。この一節で何より好きなのは、愛の本質に関するメッセージが、キリスト教の教えの領域を遥かに越えた真実であるという点です。本作のスコアリング/作曲法は教会の反響を想定に入れています。中央部(“Love is patient, love is kind, and envies no-one”〈愛は忍耐強い。愛は情け深い。ねたまない。〉)では、弦楽楽器のためのゆったりとしたメロディーが流れるのですが、私が手掛けた作品の中で最も好きな一節といえるでしょう。そして、最後に合唱が“There are three things that last for ever. Faith, hope, love. But the greatest is love”(信仰と、希望と、愛、この3つは、いつまでも残る。その中で最も大いなるものは、愛である。)と歌います。この時、オルガンのための間があるのですが、いつの日か、イギリスの壮大な大聖堂のひとつで、丸天井いっぱいに反響するその音色を聴きたくてならないとしかいえません。その日が来ることを願って…いや、信じて…

「最も大いなるものは、愛である」は2004年に初演されました。オープンアクセスで私の全ての作品を出版するというプロジェクトの一貫として、本作のフルスコアと全てのパート譜がAndArt Musicからオンラインで出版されました。