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Richard Reed Parry

Publisher: Chester Music

Heart and Breath Sextet (2012)
Heart and Breath Sextet was commissioned by the 2011 MusicNOW Festival for yMusic.
Chester Music Ltd
Works for 2-6 Players
Year Composed
15 Minutes
Alternate Orchestration
Other instruments could be used, utilising octave substitutions where necessary

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Programme Note
Richard Reed Parry Heart and Breath Sextet (2012)
Composer’s Note

This piece is based around the idea of using the widely varying internal rhythms of the performers’ bodies as performance parameters. There is no actual tempo or meter built into the piece. The breathing rates of the players are used in alternation with the individual performers’ heart rates to determine the pace at which all of the musical material is played. This requires that the performers generally play quietly and delicately, so as to be able to hear their heartbeats adequately. This, in combination with the natural variance between the different heart rates, results in a kind of delicate musical “pointillism”: starts and stops which are somewhat staggered, parts which repeatedly line up and fall out of synch with each other, different individuals’ pulses rising and falling. The piece is never performed exactly the same way twice.

Performance Note

All instruments are amplified. In this piece, the pianists wear stethoscopes positioned over their hearts so that each can follow his or her own heart rate. Two eighth notes (quavers) correspond to the two sounds of a single normal heartbeat, and performers should match as closely as possible the staccato and irregular rhythm they hear. The strings are instructed to ‘play to breath’; the natural cycle of one inhalation and one exhalation, or vice versa, will determine the length of the bar (two quarter notes/crotchets) without any attempt to make it metronomic. When one instrument is designated the leader, their breath will determine the starts of phrases and the procession from one bar to the next, cuing other parts if necessary.

Score sample

  • Ensemble
    Kronos Quartet
    Nadia Sirota, Richard Reed Parry, Bryce Dessner, Aaron Dessner
    Nico Muhly
    Deutsche Grammophon:
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