ynyr pritchard
loherangrin [lovesong no.2]
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i'm not certain why i wanted to write a lovesong but i got a sudden urge in summer 2023 to do so.
i have always found forests to be very emotional places, they just feel so sad and overwhelming and i love walking through them.
the three lovesongs written so far talk to and of unknown and unseen figures. all three take place in a forest.
i found it very difficult to think of anything i wanted to write after the summer. i had this domineering feeling that i had to write a certain piece in a certain way and i felt that all my ideas were just cheap copies of either composers i really admired or simply cheap recyclings of previous ideas in works i had already done. the irony in that thinking was lost on me at the time, especially as so much of my work come from pre-existing materials, and i think that there is a larger discussion to be had about originality and how we covet it. however, i was in a hole at the time, was just mentally worn out and i had convinced myself that i was supposed to write a certain kind of music. my incredible teacher at the time, Jennifer Walshe, told me in very direct terms what a damaging way of thinking it was and told me to just do what i felt like doing, not what i felt like i should be doing.
i had developed a very intense obsession with Richard Wagner's music, which has slightly subsided thankfully, but it was very much fuelled by the incredible new production of Lohengrin at the Opéra national de Paris by Kirill Serebrennikov and Romeo Castellucci's amazingly intense production of Parsifal. Serebrennikov turns Lohengrin into a brutal story of a society during wartime and the final reveal of the swan will stay with me for a long time. Castellucci’s Parsifal is shocking in many beautiful ways, but the first act absolutely floored me. the scene for a lot of the act is an extremely dark forest, often times you can not see the singers, just the silhouettes of figures passing in the night. i think it is some of the saddest and most frightening opera staging i have ever seen: the Verwandlungsmusik, an absolutely heart destroying piece, is accompanied by the leaves of the forest disappearing entirely, only darkness remaining. my words do not convey the power of the scene, but when watching the sudden plunge into a void, it is absolutely horrifying. they both combined in my mind a bit, looking back i think perhaps Parsifal being the dominant influence, and i really wanted to write a song for a voice with text so turned to Lohengrinloherangrin is a transposition of “Mein lieber Schwann”, Lohengrin's farewell aria at the end of Wagner's opera, to a forest. “Elsa” could be anyone and can most certainly be the audience, the singer may or may not be Loherangrin. the lover, whoever they might be, bids farewell as they are consumed by the forest.

 is written for an untrained voice and viola quartet and in many ways it started as a piece only written for myself, my voice is untrained and the viola is my only instrument. the problems that my voice encounters become a part of the piece, as does the physical difficulty of some of the viola writing, which asks for a lot of stretching and gymnastics in the left hand with specific microtonal instructions as well. the physicality of whoever performs the piece becomes as important as the sonic outcome of that physicality and i really like when the physicality becomes audible, almost tangible.

the five pages that you can see are what i had written (apart from the last bar-and-a-half) before bringing it to a lesson, five pages which i had semi-discarded but thought i should bring just in case. you can see that the original title was going to be lohengrin, more as a place holder than anything, but then when looking up the tale i saw that the original representation of the character was loherangrin and it felt nice that even though i was removing the text from the opera i was making a circle back to the original, especially when i saw that Loherangrin was the son of Parzival.

it feels strange listening back to the recording that you can hear, a very quickly made rough demo that i wanted to do for an application. part of me is upset with all the out of tune notes and unstable octaves, all the notes that my voice couldn’t reach that day, all the entries that aren’t completely together. but another part of me is so happy to hear how broken the playing is, my physicality perhaps more present than i realised i am comfortable with and it is making me think about what i ask of performers and of myself and what i am actually striving for. i really like how loud the room is and how you can hear every shake of my bow and every time i’m forcing my voice to try and get a note out when i try and go lower. i think loherangrin is an inherently imperfect piece and i hope it stays that way.
ynyr pritchard (he/they) is a composer and performer currently in Oxford.