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Jonathan Harvey

Country of origin: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Birthday: May 3, 1939
Date of death: December 4, 2012

About Jonathan Harvey

Was born in 1939 in Sutton Coldfield, England. Studied privately under Erwin Stein and Hans Keller, later at Princeton under Milton Babbitt. From 1980–1993 professor at the University of Sussex. From 1995–2000 professor at the University of Stanford in the United States. Author of the books The Music of Stockhausen (1975), Music and Inspiration and In Quest of Spirit (both 1999). Holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of Southampton and Bristol.
“I’ve been convinced for many years that the European spirit is in decline and needs to return to its Asian wellspring.” In a letter written as early as 1919 Hermann Hesse expresses what the „Hippie-generation“ actually did when they brought back a new view on life from their trips to Asia. It also seems that the fragrance of flower power may have led the young British composer Jonathan Harvey towards Hinduism in the 1970’s.
Musically educated as an Anglican choirboy and familiar with Schoenbergian theory through his teachers Erwin Stein and Hans Keller, the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen opened up new horizons for him. Stockhausen’s theory that everything in music is connected – range, meter, timbre, volume, rhythm – helped Harvey to perceive an inner unity that mirrors religious experiences in different ways. Harvey’s works reflect his spiritual involvment with Buddhism and Hinduism, combined with his innovative exploration of the computer as musical instrument, as a place where real and virtual sound worlds merge.
“Sringāra Chaconne" is a wonderful example. “Sringāra” is one of the nine rasas or “essences” that, according to the classical Indian concept of the arts (developed around 500 BC), underly every theater piece, dance, poem, sculpture or musical composition. Of all the rasas, “sringāra” is to a certain degree the most illustrious: it is the “flavor” of erotic love. The attraction between lover and beloved is also a symbol for the relationship between the individual and the divine – and therefore the "mother of all muses."
Harvey uses a relatively strict, European-baroque form to represent this affection – the chaconne. Based on a repeating harmonic scheme, it binds rioting emotion through continuously varied repetition. The four chords presented at the beginning create an almost impressionistic cloud of sound upon which the rest of the piece is based. Yet the chaconne doesn’t get lost in this fragrant sweetness: Fermatas split open the thick framework, foreign objects push their way in – as do the consonants whispered into instruments – for the chaconne doesn’t make any attempt to hide the wild furor of love either. The unison voice of flute, oboe and clarinet over a still-standing expanse of strings marks the turning point. Schopenhauer’s “Veil of Maya” is torn, a breakthrough achieved; to another timeliness, to another tenderness.