CLASSICAL MUSIC / Mark Pappenheim On Classical Music

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In the beginning was the word. Or rather, the cry. For the Creation conjured up in the seven sections of Giles Swayne's celebrated early Eighties choral piece, Cry - being revived in a late-night Prom this Friday - is a largely non-verbal affair, a sort of extended primal scream produced by 28 amplified solo voices moving in mysteriously independent ways through the primordial miasma of vowels, consonants, ticks, clicks, sighs, slurs and other vocal mannerisms.

In fact, only three words - Adama, Eva and Anima - can be heard in the whole 75-minute duration of the work. For the rest, the composer (right) - who, significantly perhaps, spent several years as a repetiteur, struggling to drum the texts into opera singers' brains - has struck a lyrical blow against the often anti-musical primacy of the syllable by taking total control of his singers' vocal apparatus - not just their vocal cords, but their lips, teeth, tongues and palates too.

First performed complete at the 1983 Proms, the resulting evocation of the opening of Genesis, based as it is upon an essentially non-Western modal harmonic cycle and a rhythmic structure largely derived from African folk music, marked a turning-point in both Swayne's musical development and his private life (he now lives and works in Ghana). It also offers a neat Biblical and musical counterbalance to the big premiere of this season's Proms (on Sunday 14 August) of John Tavener's The Apocalypse, based on the Bible's closing Book of Revelation, but drawing on the very different, if equally non-Western, traditions of the Orthodox faith and the sacred musics and ancient India and Byzantium.

Cry, 10.15pm Fri Royal Albert Hall, SW7 (071-589 8212)

(Photograph omitted)

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