The work is based on the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kubla Khan, and I have attempted to capture some of the spirit of his highly evocative text in my music.
It is structured in three main sections: the opening section (And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far Ancestral voices prophesying war) is dramatic in nature with the oboe announcing two ideas - the first a high repeated note rhythmic pattern (later with multiphonics), answered by six differently pitched drums and temple blocks, and the second a short lyrical phrase mainly built on thirds.
In the second section (A damsel with a dulcimer In a vision once I saw…Could I revive within me Her symphony and song) the solo oboe transforms the repeated notes and thirds of the first section into a love song, underpinned by the percussionist’s vibraphone and crotales.
A short reprise of the very opening leads into the final section (Beware! Beware! His flashing eyes, his floating hair! Weave a circle round him thrice…) which mirrors the text with three short dances in chain form, folk-like in character and increasingly climactic. A final reprise of the opening seems to suggest a violent end, but the oboe’s echo of the love song, answered by the percussionist’s crotales, brings the work to a gentler conclusion.
Shadow of Paradise contains a few multiphonic chords that highlight the musical line. They are fairly straightforward and all of them colour the note from which they come.
The way in which you create these sounds depends on reed and ‘set-up’ and you may find your own fingerings, but I have written the following guide to offer some help in
Multiphonic 1: This is essentially a high D fingering played with a loose embouchure to enable the multiphonic to break out. The C key may help to deliver the multiphonic.
Multiphonic 2: Use the lip to pitch the Bb. The high C should already exist in the chord. This multiphonic needs to ‘colour’ the pitch of the preceding bottom Bb. The pitches
of Bb and C in this chord might be more easily obtained by half-holing the top plate left hand.
Multiphonic 3: This is a chord on E. This pitch should be strongly present.
Multiphonic 4: Similar to Multiphonic 1, this is essentially a colouring of top G. Releasing the third octave key and making a slightly looser embouchure will open up a
chord with G strongly present.
If you would like to explore further fingerings there are many more to be found in the excellent The Techniques of Oboe Playing by Peter Veale (Barenreiter, 1994).
It needs to be stressed that all the chords in this piece are there to enhance expression and particularly to intensify pitch, and should be played with real conviction so that they
are integrated and balanced within the phrases. The oboe has an enormously rich source of chords that lie just below the surface of its sound which, if released, can give
added weight to expression. In Shadow of Paradise they are there exactly for this purpose.