Norman Worrall (1938-2014) came late on to the music scene after doctoral studies in the USA and a successful career as an academic psychologist, mainly at London University. He spoke Greek fluently and worked as a magazine editor in Athens for a few years, and also in China, teaching Psychology.
Norman wrote music for over a dozen years, mainly for a combination of software instruments (as built into Logic Pro) and acoustic instruments (as available from various orchestral sample libraries). He arranged many pieces for unusual combinations of instruments, and he began to compose chamber pieces for live performance, including his work for harp and strings, Britten Re-imagined, which builds on the music of Benjamin Britten.
Norman pursued image and sound design in film projects for several years. The first result was Imagined Planets. He also made short films on the Statue of Liberty, the Seven Last Words, the artist Kandinsky and Nanoscience. His most substantial film, available on DVD, is Becoming Emily, an 80-minute portrait of the nineteenth-century American poet Emily Dickinson, for which he also wrote the music.
He and Jean created over 20 soundscapes for various science-based projects and events, including Science Festivals in Cambridge, Cheltenham and Aberdeen. Link to Cheltenham soundscapes
for harp and strings
for harp and strings (2014) (ca.10:00)
In 2012, Norman began working with portions of Britten’s Serenade to create a new work, as a tribute to the composer. He initially also included the Rondeau from Purcell’s Abdelazer Suite. During the next year, Norman re-considered and adjusted the music, dropping the Purcell theme, and eventually cutting the sections from ten down to six (with these grouped into four sections). He composed the piece by transforming and overlapping phrases of Britten’s music (all the instruments and voice), altering rhythms, transposing via a few steps or by octaves. He also added his own pitches.
Notes from the composer: These pieces are reworkings of fragments from Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, for which I’ve had great affection and admiration. In this piece I have typically interwoven material from two or moreSerenade pieces into a single set, and have tried to keep to the spirit of Britten’s own music. In the notes below, I refer to individual Serenade pieces by their opening words, e.g. “Queen and huntress”, not Jonson’s Hymn.
I. Splendour. The opening swirling strings clearly signal Tennyson’s “splendour”, but the main tune on cellos and violas is in fact, “The day’s grown old”. Soon, “This ae night” also makes an entrance to provide bass underpinning, followed almost immediately by “Queen and huntress” in the second violins. Swooping pfp strings underline the self-irony of this over-the-top treatment.
II. O rose - thou art sick. Pizzicato strings and harp open with an energetic rendering of “O rose – thou art sick”. After an intrusion of trilling violins, the melodic material yields to, “O soft embalmer of the still midnight ...”, treated rather more vigorously than in Britten’s original.
III. Queen and huntress. In the opening section, the harp finds a theme in Britten’s voice original which it savours slowly, with considerable freedom and indeterminate key. There follows a miniature scherzo using a run in Britten’s voice part on the words, “excellently bright”. Finally, we take the original horn and voice lines and slowly float them over an ostinato which Britten had used as a secondary figure, the whole moving in and out of dissonance on the way to climax.
IV. The day’s grown old is full of busy and dramatic contrasts, opening and closing with an Eastern flavour. However the main treatments are very un-Eastern, with quotations from “The day’s grown old” and “O soft embalmer” and in particular the harp turning “This ae night” into something rather different from Britten’s own dirge.
Please contact VM for a sample score and more information.
Selected samples from Norman’s music catalogue.
Norman created numerous videos on many subjects, including the Statue of Liberty, visual art, science and poetry. He often wrote music for the films, as well. Here are a few examples of his work.