There’s at least one moment in every concert when the audience gets to hear what an orchestra sounds like in the raw. Before the muscle and bone of music is added, before the brain takes charge and puts things in order.
It’s not really warming up in any disciplined sense. It’s more a bunch of people playing random things, a kind of nervous settling-in. (As a rule, a number of players will be trying out themes from the piece they are about to play, a practice that rather gives the game away as far as the audience is concerned – no spoiler alerts here.) But the noise is a recognisable one. In popular representation it tends to be halted by a conductor tapping a baton, or a violinist a bow, on a music stand, an action that heralds the business of tuning up. (It doesn’t happen in real life, of course. The principal violinist – or assistant – will stand up silently, looking both around the orchestra and a bit uncomfortable, and the orchestra will fall quiet, eager to hear how many goes the oboist will need to give an A that is in tune and unwavering.)
Peter Nagle’s Until I die there will be sounds gets its premiere at St John’s Smith Square on Monday 11 June, played by Kensington Symphony Orchestra. It scarcely resembles the familiar orchestral kickabout that will have immediately preceded it. But for a few minutes we can listen in to the internal sound of the orchestra. It’s not a cacophony. This gentle raw material is all glowing timbre in which instruments sound purely, and is what the likes of Sibelius and Brahms fashion into their symphonic masterpieces. (Respectively, their seventh and first symphonies make up the remainder of the programme.)