Flower photo by Caroline Senn
Mass for Heavy Rail (2009, 2024)
Recorded Too Flutter
in 12 sections
duration = 1 hour

Main Menu

Prelude (1:35) (pre-recorded sound sculpture 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 (2009, 2024) is for SSAATTBB choir and backing sounds performed-recorded from a sound sculpture called a Too Flutter. The text is from Mozart's Requiem, a Latin text freely augmented with English verse. The main title is a double entendre referring to the Catholic liturgy and the rich often cinematic rail-like textures. In this case, the rails are cyclical. The pre-recorded sounds are acoustic, unaltered except for stereo location and filtering, with the heavy rail-like timbres derived from metal washers ("moths") release on long nlon lines to spin downward over threaded steal rods (cyclical rails). The work is dedicated to my father.

The backing tracks were realized initially for The Road to Plasy in 2007 and should be consulted here. This early acousmatic version of the piece provides as the backing sounds for this version written in 2009. updated in 2024.

See full score pdf. See/hear video of choral parts without backing sounds, See Additional NotesSee Tonalities Amidst Sound Mass, See Performance Setup

Use browser with volume controls i.e. Google Chrome.

For performances (see Setup) the choir is positioned across the back of a proscenium stage. The choir is miked if necessary and amplified separately from the backing sounds using a parallel soundsystem. The Too Flutter sounds are in stereo but should include a subwoofer. Stereo-quad playback may work well as shown in the diagram. A sound technician in the audience area to maintain a balance between the choral and backing sounds is advisable. Foldback speakers (wedges) are positioned facing the choir/conductor playing the backing sounds for pitch cues. Synchronization of the backing sounds and choral parts is achieved by the conductor following cue videos as given just below these being the actual files to be used in performance if necessary. It would be to download these video with the stereo output , the video to the conductor.  A playback technician may be necessary as cued by the conductor to start sections.

The main video windows below are for rehearsal and performance. The conductor is so cued by bouncing dots, etc. with the video soundtracks routed to the sound system. Click "Follow Score... to see the score on-screen. Click the red type to See backing video with Sibelius voices & conducting cues in a second window.

The vocal parts for MFHR are not a difficult and  should be rehearsed without the backing tracks using equal temperament. When the Too Flutter sounds are added, the singers will develop an ear for the overtone cues and will naturally adjust to the track pitch cues slightly higher or lower then the equal temperament.

Again, modalities in the sung parts were determined by overtones in the backing tracks, these coming from the humble found resonators. Curiously, the fundamental pitches from the recorded Too Flutter were often close enough to equal temperament to facilitate a traditional score using key signatures. Because of this, MFHR has more in common with renaissance music as harmonic limitations were fixed by instrumental limitations. Furthermore, to write atonally for human voices against a noise-driven sound texture is impractical. I desired an effect where the clash of the rail-like noise, with its cinematic aspects, and that of the natural and unnatural (equal temperament) temperaments, would provide an aesthetic tension on many levels. For example, the final C Major chord, in the Lux Aeterna, occurs at the request of the Too Flutter and its self-deprecating components.

Prelude, 1:42
  Backing sounds only (no choral parts).
Introitus, 5:21 Follow Score in Separate Window
Kyrie|Dies Irae, 5:37 (follow score)
Tuba Mirum, 2:39 (follow score)
Rex Tremendae, 4:09 (follow score)
Recordare, Jesu Pie, 2:41 (follow score) 
Confutatis|Lacrimosa, 11:05 (score)
Domine Jesu, 1:42 (follow score)
Hostias, 2:55 (follow score)
Sanctus|Benedictus, 5:44 (score)
Agnus Dei, 6:23 (follow score)
Lux Aeterna, 6:02 (follow score)
Additional Notes

The backing sound files used in Mass for Heavy Rail were generated using a Too Flutter sound sculpture (see
The Road to Plasy notes) 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 generates 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 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 (The Road to Plasy), 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.
       Performance Setup for Mixed Choir

Tonalities Amdist Sound Mass, 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.