Flower photo by Caroline Senn
Mass for Heavy Rail:
Requiem for My Father
for SATB Choir
and backing sounds

14 sections
1 hour

Main Menu

Prelude (1:35) (pre-recorded Too Flutter sounds only)
Introitus (5:21)

Kyrie | Dies Irae (5:37) sections merged
Tuba Mirum (2:39)
Rex Tremendae (4:01)

Recordare, Jesu Pie (2:41)
Confutatis | Lacrimosa (11:05) sections merged
Domine Jesu (1:42)
Hostias (2:55)
Sanctus | Benedictus (5:44) sections merged
Agnus Dei (6:23)
Lux Aeterna (6:02)

Mass for Heavy Rail: Requiem for My Father (2009) is for SATB choir and backing sounds recorded from a Too Flutter sound sculpture. The text is Latin but freely augmented with English verse. The main title is a double entendre referring to the Catholic text and structure of the piece, and its rich and often cinematic textures. The pre-recorded sounds are acoustic in origin, unaltered except for stereo location with some filtering suggesting the heavy rail-like timbres. The subtitle for the piece, Requiem for My Father, is a dedication to my father who passed as the choral writing was just begun in the summer of 2008.

Synchronization between the sung parts and the backing sounds is critical in this work. Videos, now in MP4 format, have been created to conduct the conductor with the audio tracks being routed to a stereo playback system (see Performance Setup). These are video files that can be played back on an iPad, a computer or any device providing a clear image to the conductor and a strong audio signal.

The are two types of mp4 videos provided: one for the live performance with backing sounds and conducting bouncing dots with bouncing conduting dots, and a rehearsal version with Sibelius vocal sounds added. A pitch pipe can be used to give the choir its pitch during the performance.

The work may be rehearsed without the backing sounds using equal temperament. When the backing sounds are present, the choir will naturally develop an ear for the overtone pitches that are slightly higher or lower then equal temperament.

of the performance and rehearsal versions are available from Dan Senn

Below are 12 rehearsal videos of the score with Sibelius vocal sound added. These, of course, are absent in the live performance version. The Prelude is wholly electronic with no sung parts. To follow the score while listening, click the blue "follow score" text.
Prelude, 1:35
Backing sounds only (no choral parts).
Introitus, 5:21 (follow score in 2nd window)
Choral parts plus backing sounds.
Kyrie|Dies Irae, 5:37 (follow score)
Choral parts plus backing sounds.
Tuba Mirum, 2:39 (follow score)
Choral parts plus backing sounds.
Rex Tremendae 4:09 (follow score)
Choral parts plus backing sounds.
Recordare, Jesu Pie, 2:41 (follow score)
Choral parts plus backing sounds.
Confutatis|Lacrimosa, 11:05 (score)
Choral parts plus backing sounds.
Domine Jesu 1:42 (follow score)
Choral parts plus backing sounds.
Hostias, 2:55 (follow score)
Choral parts plus backing sounds.
Sanctus|Benedictus, 5:44 (score)
Choral parts plus backing sounds.
Agnus Dei, 6:23 (follow score)
Choral parts plus backing sounds.
Lux Aeterna, 6:02 (follow score)
Choral parts plus backing sounds.
Additional Notes

The backing sound files used in Mass for Heavy Rail: Requiem for My Father were generated using a Too Flutter sound sculpture and then mixed with the choral "ah" sounds produced by the Sebelius Music Notation software. Sibelius does not produce the actual words of the score, of course, nor did this version of Sibelius generate crescendos or decresendos. Sibelius 3 also ignored notes at times, and sometimes skipped a beat. But the timings are close enough and the balance between the choral and backing parts are adequate for demonstration, even if the subtleties of a live performance are often lost. Furthermore, the fidelity of the backing sounds are far less brilliant than they would otherwise be in this context.

The backing sounds for
MFHR: RFMF represent an expansive tonal geography upon which I have constructed the choral sections of this piece. The primary sound generator in the sound sculpture are metallic washers spinning downward over the cyclical rails of threaded steel rods which are attached to found piece of metallic scrap—the scrap accounting for the color and overtones. The metal rods and washers have been carefully arranged for this particular work and represent a score "above" a score (the sculpture itself), "behind" a score (Czech Rail), and "behind" the traditionally notated score given here. The found pieces of scrap metal were acquired at thrift stores and garage sales, and each is imprinted inadvertently with an unique and irregular overtone structure. They were never meant to produce classical music. What is recorded (contact mikes are built into the Too Flutter), as the "moths" cascade downward over the rails, is ultra-rich in overtones, sub-tones, and fundamental tones of varying strengths and these are the timbrel materials comprising the tonal landscape of this piece. And the score, which is written using traditional key signatures, represents a contruct upon which this landscape rests. Again, the tonal centers of the choral writing are determined by the rough and tumble of the tonal landscape—traditional notation systems have been used to make the piece accessible and performable. Therefore, the tonal simplicity of the choral parts is necessary and determined by the overtone structure of the pre-recorded backing sounds. Except for the all "electronic" Prelude (the backing sounds are actually better defined a "musique concrete"), where I have made references to tonal shifts, I have not included a tonal analysis of backing sounds.

Tonalities Section-by-Section

......| G major/minor | D minor ->C# major | C major ->D major | C minor | D# minor | E minor | C minor | G minor - Bb minor |
......| F# phrygian - A minor | A minor | D minor | Gb major | Eb minor | Bb minor - C major | Ab major - Bb major - C major |
More detail
01 - Prelude (1:35) (no choral sounds) G major - D minor - C# minor - G minor
02 - Introitus (5:21) vii°7->D harmonic minor [V - i - V - iv -vii°- III] [pause] shifts to C# major at end.
03 - Kyrie | Dies Irae (5:37) (sections merged)
......a Kyrie (2:05) C-major [C7 - vii9] --- shifts to D major at end.
......b Dies Irae (3:32) C-minor [i - i9 - end i7 minus 3rd]
04 - Tuba Mirum (2:39) D# pure minor - shifts to D# harmonic minor mid-way [ i - V7]
05 - Rex Tremendae (4:01) E pure minor, embellished by passing tones throughout.
06 - Recordare (2:41) C pure minor - shifts to melodic minor, changes to D harmonic minor midway.
07 - Confutatis | Lacrimosa (11:05) (sections merged)
......a Confutatis (3:58) G pure minor - shift to harmonic minor - sudden shift to Bb harmonic minor [vi - i - iv - i9]
......b Lacrimosa 97:03) F# phrygian minor - A pure minor [i - i9]
08 - Domine Jesu (1:42) A harmonic minor [i - diatonic cluster - i - diatonic cluster]
09 - Hostias (2:55) D harmonic minor [i - V7 - i7 - V7 - iv - ii°7 - i]
10 - Sanctus | Benedictus (5:44) (sections merged)
......a Sanctus (2:37) Gb major [I7 - ends i w/unresolved lowered 5th]
......b Benedictus (3:07) Eb pure minor - shifts to harmonic minor - sudden shift to E pure minor [i - VII7 - i]
11 - Agnus Dei (6:23) Bb pure minor [i - i7 ] - sudden shift to C major [I]
12 - Lux Aeterna (6:02) Ab major - shifts to Bb major - sudden shift to C major - shift to C minor [i - diatonic cluster ] - C major.
Possible Performance Setup (dance component optional)

A subwoofer should be included in the sound system.