Tarik O’Regan: Latent Manifest

Context

Tarik O’Regan was born in Croydon in 1978, and his mother was Algerian so in his very early life he spent a lot of time abroad. O’Regan claims he was a “late starter” with music, only picking up music when he was 14. However, he seemed to find his feet very quickly as he then claimed a place at the highly prestigious Pembroke College at Oxford University. He studied music here and then specialised in composition after receiving private lessons with Jeremy Dale Roberts. O’Regan graduated from Oxford University in 1999 and he began his music career as a classical recordings reviewer for The Observer newspaper. O’Regan began his postgraduate degree in composition at Cambridge, where he was then appointed Composer in Residence at the Corpus Chisti College in 2000.

O’Regan worked extensively with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for his BBC Proms debut with his orchestral work, Latent Manifest. Since then he has written his most popular work, a chamber opera in one-act entitled, Heart of Darkness. 

O’Regan’s musical influences are intriguing because he takes aspects from a range of different types of music to create his own. He states that these five influences are the most dominant in his work:

  • Renaissance Vocal Writing
  • The Music of North Africa
  • British Rock Bands of the 1960’s and 1970’s
  • Jazz
  • Minimalist Music

His influences can be heard in a variety of combinations throughout his catalogue of works, which includes Latent Manifest (2010). There is one other thing that inspires O’Regan, and that is the works of J.S. Bach. Latent Manifest is essentially a transcription of imitations that can be found in the Adagio movement of Bach’s Sonata No.3 for Solo Violin in C major BWV 1005. O’Regan takes these imitations and creates an illustrious piece for orchestra, which emphasises his use of extended tonal languages and complicated rhythmic effects. O’Regan states in his programme notes that:

“Thus, whilst a direct transcription of the notes on the page of Bach’s C Major Adagio magnified for orchestra is possible, it would account for much less than half of the musical experience when compared to hearing a performance of the original solo work. Instead, Latent Manifest expands “the other half” – the experience of implication.”

He further goes on to say in his programme notes that:

“As an exploration of Bach’s hidden harmonies and textures, from a single line which opens the piece to a hinting at the myriad layering of performative difference, I try – in this orchestral piece – to present my own evidence of Bach’s compositional intent in his work for solo violin.”

The Music

The piece begins quietly, with a solo violin playing a variation of the main theme. The xylophone and harp join to accompany the solo violin. A wave of sound from the whole orchestra comes in and quickly drops out again to make room for the soloist. 

The orchestra grows and the horns play a new variation of the theme. The celesta and double basses play a polyphonic melody line, which is soon accompanied by syncopated strings. A faster section begins, led by the upper strings and winds. The celesta plays a large role throughout the work, especially in this section.

The quick passage work played by the strings acts as an accompaniment to the solo horn, which creates a luscious texture. The same happens with the solo trumpet, where we also hear interludes from the harp and celesta. The trumpets enter again, this time muted to create a different texture effect. A strong dissonant chord from the brass proclaim the next section which is incredibly grand and fulfilling.

The texture and dynamic drops to only a few instruments within the orchestra, and this new atmosphere is somewhat mysterious. The harp and xylophone have a melodic line, whilst the strings play a rather static phrase. This leads the solo violin back in, with a partner this time (who is sitting at the top of the stage). The two play in a question and answer format, in incredibly high ranges, which creates dissonant harmonics. The harp plays a scalic line, and the piece dies off with the upper strings playing the tonic chord. O’Regan’s use of timbres and textures, alongside the variation of themes creates a wonderfully poignant piece. 

 

Happy Reading!

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