Mark Gotham - Fantasia Upon a Pulse

Workshop performance video

Purcell’s Fantasia Upon One Note has captured the imagination of many subsequent composers, even acting as a specific inspiration and model for pieces by Sally Beamish, Elliot Carter, and Oliver Knussen among others. The most striking feature of Purcell’s work is second-to-lowest part which plays the eponymous ‘one note’ – a middle C – repeated every bar throughout. Fantasia Upon a Pulse is based on a transcription of the first phrase of Purcell’s Fantasia into the rhythms. The skeleton of the new work comprises the pitches of Purcell’s original harmonies set in a proportional relationship according to the harmonic ratios involved. For instance, the major chord in root position gives the proportion 4:5:6 – a relatively simply proportion. As Purcell’s harmonies become more complex, so too do the new rhythmic relationships. Fantasia Upon a Pulse grows out of that core structure, redistributing elements, and adding ‘free’ parts based on the same structural principles. You could think of this piece as a kind of extreme close-up: a new look at a well-known object, revealing an uneven surface belied by the more familiar view from a distance.

Composer: Mark Gotham

Composer photo
Photo of Mark Gotham

Mark Gotham is composer and computational music-theorist. He is a Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter on the DFG-funded ‘Computergestützte Analyse harmonischer Strukturen’ project (Kleinertz and Müller, principal investigators) and director of the non-profit for democratizing access, Mark holds a PhD in music theory from the University of Cambridge, an MMus in composition from the RNCM, and a BA from the University of Oxford where he graduated at the top of his cohort. Before joining the Universität des Saarlandes, Mark held research and teaching posts at the Royal Academy of Music; University of Cambridge; Royal Holloway, University of London; and at Cornell University. Apart from teaching and research, Mark has also worked as a versatile freelance musician. Performance highlights include conducting principal players of the London Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra in contemporary music projects. Composition highlights include the 2018 release of his debut CD of compositions – ‘Utrumne est Ornatum’ – which has attracted superlative reviews.


Workshop video