Performed by John Wallace (flugelhorn) and Andrew Powell (live electronics and tape) and recently featured in the 2019 blockbuster film release of ‘Bolden’, a drama directed by Dan Pritzker, which imagines the compelling, powerful and tragic journey of Buddy Bolden, the unsung American hero who invented Jazz.
Whilst the film’s music soundtrack is widely attributed to the composing/arranging of Wynton Marsalis, it is important to note that
The Transistor Radio of St Narcissus (along with another recording by John Wallace and Andrew Powell – Plasmogeny II ) was also used in the film’s exciting musical configuration.
Recordings of both these pieces (complete performances) are available to purchase as MP3 downloads from this online shop.
Originally recorded in 2002 for the album ‘Michael’s Farewell’, The Transistor Radio of St Narcissus was previously commissioned by John Wallace and first performed by him and its composer, Tim Souster, in 1983. The work is written for flugelhorn, live electronics and tape and this downloadable recording is now being released under The Wallace Collection label.
Detailed Recording Information
The Transistor Radio of St Narcissus grew out of the composer’s close working relationship with John Wallace, who commissioned the work and gave the first performance in 1983.
The idea of the mirror image either in pitch or in time dominates the work, relating to the title which refers to a passage in Thomas Pynchon’s book The Crying of Lot 49, where the heroine is reminded, by the layout of a brand-new housing development in southern California (‘San Narcisco’), of her first sight of a printed circuit board when she once opened up a transistor radio.
The shape of the work reflects the idea of revelation in a process of changing focuses on a journey down through the layers of the sound spectrum. it starts with the noisiest distortions of the flugelhorn, concentrating on the upper reaches of the spectrum. The work moves down through the sound mixtures of the middle region, to the euphony, consonant harmony, and regular rhythm of the lowest region in the coda which is a microcosm of the whole work. The sound of a transistor radio being tuned in, the emergence of the work’s four ‘matrix chords’ (derived from manipulations of the harmonic series) out of the static, morse signals, bass line and percussion, and finally the flugelhorn melody lead to the point of arrival: a perfect cadence based on the flugelhorn’s B flat fundamental tone.