The Longest Symphony You’ll Never Hear

It seems like I’m writing an awful lot about European music lately, as though going to Europe focused me on a continent I hadn’t paid attention to in a long time. Partly true, perhaps, but largely coincidental, I think. In any case, Michael Grossi has uploaded David Carter’s elaborate MIDI realization of Kaikhosru Sorabji’s Jami Symphony. The timings of the movements are as follows:

1st movement: 1:34:47 (86.81MB)

2nd movement: 19:46 (18.1MB)

3rd movement: 1:58:57 (109.91MB)

4th movement: 43:07 (39.48MB)

Total: 4:36:37 (301.82 MB)

Four and a half hours: that’s one long friggin’ symphony. That’s the Well-Tuned Piano of orchestral works. I freely admit I haven’t listened to the whole thing yet, and don’t know when I’ll have the time, but I’m fascinated by Sorabji’s music, especially given how early (late 1910s) he was working at a level of complexity unprecedented by anyone except the then-unknown Charles Ives. According to the Sorabji web site, the Jami was his Third Symphony, written between 1942 and ’51. You can obtain a miniature score for £205, in case you’d like to arrange a performance with your school orchestra or something. The work contains a wordless chorus and baritone solo, realized by wordless vocal timbres in the recording. Carter’s goal is to someday implement a higher-quality realization using the Vienna Symphonic Library. It’s only a MIDI version, but, as Carter says, if you’re my age, you’re unlikely to hear an actual performance or recording of the work in your lifetime.

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Comments

  1. Dan Schmidt says

    I’m similarly fascinated by Sorabji, although when I finally got to listen to the Opus Clavicembalisticum, score in hand, it turned out to be a big mountain of sludge (Ogdon’s performance, which basically seemed like the most impressive sight-reading session ever, didn’t help).
    The one work (so far) of his that I really have appreciated are the Transcendental Studies, the first 25 of which have been recorded by Fredrik Ullen. That’s where I recommend anyone start.
    KG replies: Oh, you should listen to Sorabji’s Fourth Sonata, played by Jonathan Powell on Altarus. The second movement especially is absolutely gorgeous, it drips into the ear like streams of melted chocolate. I’d give anything to write music like that. And I do love the non-fugal movements of Opus Clavicembalisticum, especially the Adagio. The fugues are, admittedly, a bit constipated. Try the Madge recording.

  2. says

    This is an incredible accomplishment … I mean the MIDI realization. 4 1/2 hours of a full orchestral score … that’s A LOT OF NOTES, and each one would have to be entered into some scoring software like Sibelius or Logic Pro. I’d like to hear more about how this feat was done.

  3. Maarten Brandt says

    Fascinating achievement this presentation of the Jami-symphony. In some way it reminds me of Scriabin/Nemtin’s L’Action Prealable, but then even on a much larger scale. The sound of this intriguing music is ‘tropical’ in the broadest sense of this word, exotic in the best sense of this word. It is music coming more or less from another world, from the world beyond. Trilling, ex[c]iting and moving in every detail. I would love that once the dream of a real complete orchestral performance comes true.

  4. David Carter says

    Kyle, thanks for posting this.
    The Sorabji website you linked to is very outdated a much better site for up to date information is the Sorabji Archive at http://www.sorabji-archive.co.uk/. although the info you gave is accurate. The miniature score is 824 A3 pages of badly wriiten MS. The main aim of the project is to produce a performing score and parts to encourage live performance. It took me four and a half years to input the first draft of the score into Sibelius, about 1500 to 2000 hours. It took me about 40 hours to prepare the midi performance using the new set of sample sounds that comes with the most recent Sibelius 5.1. It’s probably not appropriate to go into the technical details here but if anyone wants more info they can contact me by e-mail.
    The midi performance is just a basic one but it does give you an idea of the harmonies, textures and phrases.
    The solo baritone in the last movement is the Vienna Symhponic Libraries Bass Trumpet.
    I still have a lot of work to do to complete the editing of the performing score, probably another two years, and then the parts (not that long with Sibelius’ great Dynamic Parts feature) and then I’ll start the VSL rendition.
    Still if you think I’m mad someone else is working on the Messa Alta Sinfonica which is 1001 pages.

  5. says

    And someone else (I mean myself) is working on the Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra.. Not the biggest, at only(!) 540 pages, but enough to keep me busy too for the next 2+ years.

    Kyle, what about the mp3 I sent you last year?
    KG replies: It’s extremely well done. Is it on the internet somewhere that I can link to it? Geez, I thought I was a glutton for punishment, but I’m pretty sane compared to you guys.

  6. Kraig Grady says

    I agree with you Kyle on the second movement of the Fourth. I think it went around and around in my car stereo for a few weeks.
    I also agree with Dan Schmidt about the Transcendental Studies, which was my own introduction that sent me on a mission to grab whatever i could get my hands on!
    Look forward to hearing something besides his piano music so thanks for posting this.

  7. mike says

    like I said ,
    I heard whispers of Sorabji (ultra multi-layer Scrabin harmony) in the Katrina Concerto—

  8. says

    I cannot beleive it’s THAT long! It must be hard to write something so long and have it sound so nice, even though it’s only a MIDI. I would pay close to 10,000 dollars for a ticket to this concert if one day they would have one. If only, if only…