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Ophelia Songs

for female voice, treble recorder, alto saxophone, bass clarinet, and a bowl of water

Year:  2006   ·  Duration:  16m 19s
Instrumentation:  Ophelia Song 1: voice, treble recorder, bowl of water; Ophelia Song 2: voice, alto saxophone; Ophelia Song 3: voice, bass clarinet

Year:  2006
Duration:  16m 19s
Instrumentation  Ophelia Song 1: voice, treb...

Composer:   Claire Scholes

Films, Audio & Samples

Sample Score

Sample: Movt 1: Pages 1, 2, 6; Movt 2: Pages 1, 2; Movt 3: Pages 1, 2, 5

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I have seen several productions of Hamlet and have always been baffled as to why the actresses playing Ophelia invariably feel the need to show off their Broadway Musical-esque singing prowess. To my mind this is not the purpose of these songs! The settings I’ve created for Peter Scholes and myself are intended as raw illustrations of the angst, disturbance, sorrow, starkness, and obliviousness of Ophelia to her plight; as well as alluding to her eventual drowning. I like the words to not always be audible – after all, would Ophelia have been conveniently coherent? I think not!

The first song employs gurgling bubbling sounds created by flutter tonguing on the recorder and the singer singing into a bowl of water. Two quasi-mediaeval stylised folk tunes overlap and gradually disintegrate.

With the second song I’ve sought to juxtapose a burlesque style with a more sorrowful and slightly panicky motif, with the saxophone creating ‘gasping’ effects when not involved in the bluesy opening riff.

In the third song, as in the first song, gurglings and rumblings are portrayed through multiphonics, flutter tonguings and trills in the bass clarinet. The frenetic pace of the opening subsides to vacant grief, while the bass clarinet creates ghostly sounds by fingering runs and blowing enough air so that tone can only just be heard.

Claire Scholes

Contents note

I. Ophelia Song 1
II. Ophelia Song 2
III. Ophelia Song 3

Text note

Text in English from "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare

Performance history

15 Oct 2006: Performed by Claire Scholes and Peter Scholes at the University of Auckland Clocktower, Auckland