THE ISLE IS FULL OF NOISES for orchestra (1 piccolo. 2 flutes, 2 oboe, 1 English horn, 2 clarinets, 1 bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 1 contrabassoon, 4 French horns, 3 trumpets, 2 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone, 1 tuba, timpani, 2 percussion, 1 harp, 1 celesta, full string orchestra.) 2013. Commissioned by l' Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. 13 minutes. Score and parts available through PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.



The Isle Is Full of Noises was commissioned by l' Orchestre symphonique de Montréal for a program consisting of compositions inspired by William Shakespeare. I chose to base mine on The Tempest, particularly on two memorable excerpts, one by Prospero: "We are such stuff
as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep."
(Act 4, Scene 1) and the following one by Caliban:

"Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that vie delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices,
That if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again."
(Act 3, Scene 2)

Both  Prospero and Caliban view reality as dream-like in this play. Their island is a magical place. It's "reality" is shaped and determined by human will, Prospero's, rather than natural law. Caliban, a rebellious and conceited creature, is promoting this reality to the unsuspecting newcomers hoping to usurp through them Prospero's magic and power. It is not surprising that, in Christian Europe of Shakespeare's time, Caliban's character became associated with the serpentine deceiver of the Biblical Eden allegory who, too, sought to corrupt the first humans by enticing them to the power of the forbidden fruit of consciousness and its power thereof, in spite of God's explicit instructions to the contrary (Prospero's character has many common features with the Elizabethan concept of God.) 

It is this Biblical connection with the "isle, full of noises" which got me inspired to compose this work. The "Eden" allegory has been a subject that I keep on exploring musically and psychologically in a number of recent works. At variance with current scientific orthodoxy, I sense a different psychological pre-history for our species and use the tools of collective memory, the same tools that enable me to compose music, to trace this prehistory to its deep roots. The task is frustratingly difficult, constantly bouncing against the "hard facts" of science, but my view of reality has gradually evolved to be more similar to the one that Prospero and Caliban weave for the other characters in The Tempest than to the creeds of scientists—with the possible exception of some quantum physicists, whose view of reality is even more fantastic than anything Shakespeare or the Genesis authors could be accused of conjuring.

During this meditative process that composing music has become for me, it occurred to me that it may be possible to view western European music history from the classical masters to the mid-twentieth century as a continuous process of psychological regression, reaching ever deeper into our imaginal past. If this is true, then the music of this musical tradition that we all cherish is the creative by-product of this regression: it is the sonic fruit of our search for our psychic roots. Consequently, the time arrow of western music during this period of time would be a mirror reflection (an inversion) of the time arrow of this imaginal history. Restored, it would start with relatively independent parts and end up with complex wholes, so, if we were to reconstruct a proper timeline, we would start with modernism and gradually evolve forward towards classicism. Bizarre as this may sound, it is nevertheless the stylistic timeline that I ended up following in The Isle is Full of Noises.

The work begins with primal breathing and an elemental soundscape. Musical sounds gradually emerge from the depths of the orchestral spectrum in a tonally vague language which quickly transforms into impressionistic smears reminiscent of the music of Claude Debussy, one of my favourite composers. Timbre gradually morphs into melody and harmony, but both are elusive and at first retain their identity only briefly. Finally, the main D-major theme, representing the emergence of consciousness in the metaphorical structure of my work, is first introduced by the string orchestra in an introverted but eventually more self conscious manner, persistently pulled outwardly by the exuberance of the triumphant ending— the latter representing the emergence of the perfected human in this earthly sphere of consciousness. All of these musical metaphors were recognized as functioning archetypes in the music only after the completion of the compositional process or, more correctly, close to the tail end of it. In retrospect, however, I realize that these archetypes acted as catalysts for the music all along and caused it to become what it is. One conscious influence was the music of Felix Mendelssohn, whose overture to Midsummer Night's Dream I knew would precede The Isle is Full of Noises in the concert of the premiere performance. Any stylistic similarity between the latter part of my work and Mendelssohn's is therefore not coincidental. Then again, I subscribe to the view that nothing ever is.

Premiere performance: October 15, 2013. L' Orchestre symphonique de Montréal under the direction of Nathan Brock. Maison symphonique de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec.

Eurasian Premiere: October 6, 2015. Ural Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Dmitry Liss. Eurasia International Music Festival (opening concert.) Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Reviews and Comments:

Thank you for this beautiful moment at the OSM yesterday ! What an impressive, disturbing and powerful masterpiece you have achieved with The Isle if Full of Noises! Congratulations, and thank you! L. L (Facebook)

The Isle is Full of Noises by Christos Hatzis, world premiere by the OSM, is amazing, stunning and fully reaches the heart. Bravo! [The isle is full of noises by Christos Hatzis, première mondiale par l'OSM, épatant, renversant et vous atteint en plein coeur, bravo!] Patrick Dea (Facebook)

I don’t know about you, but I love encountering program music where the composition is intelligible as an expression of the idea it is meant to signify. Hatzis begins with the sounds of human breathing, an activity that naturally comes first in this kind of organic sound-poetry. We work from darkness to light, from abstract to concrete, from disorder to order, as seemingly random or dissonant sounds organize and cohere in a buildup towards a melodic and tonal affirmation at the end. And just as Prospero’s island is sometimes a bit threatening but ultimately a safe place for good people and not so terrible even to those who are evil, so too with the sounds, that never threaten but do surround us safely. I can’t help feeling that for Hatzis--especially after his Juno-award (just a few days ago) for Going Home Star--the possibilities are unlimited. Much of the time we seemed to inhabit a sonic world reminding me of early Stravinsky--perhaps corresponding to his word “impressionistic” in the composer’s program note--as in The Firebird ballet score, but with the occasional addition of unexpected sounds from a different rule-book just to keep us honest. I was thrilled to see how well the audience received Hatzis’s music. Leslie Barcza, Barrczablog

The [OSM] Music Director was not present, at least four first-desks were replaced by deputies but, in spite of all this, this concert of the OSM was a magnificent success. . . the inevitable 'Canadian creation' that rare thing, not only did not bore but caused, on the contrary, a standing ovation that came from the heart. . . The delicate Mendelssohnian sound was succeeded by an extraordinary uproar, arising from the huge orchestra and hugely moving. [It was the opening of a work] titled The Isle is Full of Noises. It was about Creation, an OSM commission from Canadian composer Christos Hatzis inspired by the Tempest. From this uproar [musical] references emerged progressively: film soundtracks, tremolo chords suggesting a unison of human voices, a solo trombone navigating between Mahler and Sibelius and taken up by the whole orchestra by modulating to a Scriabenesque style. In 13 minutes, and without a second of boredom, here is music that is both contemporary and accessible. The composer walked on stage [to acknowledge] the public ovation. [Le chef et directeur artistique n'est pas là, au moins quatre premiers-pupitres sont remplacés par leurs adjoints et, néanmoins, ce concert de l'OSM est une magnifique réussite. Il est vrai que les remplaçants disposent d'éléments très forts et capables de se défendre seuls: la somptueuse et tapageuse machine Prokofiev de Roméo et Juliette, le piano scintillant de Stephen Hough, et jusqu'à l'inévitable «création canadienne» qui, chose rarissime, n'ennuie pas et provoque, au contraire, une ovation qui vient du coeur. . . Aux délicats bruits de la nature mendelssohniens succède un vacarme extraordinaire, surgissant de l'orchestre énorme et comme en mouvement, intitulé The Isle is Full of Noises. Il s'agit d'une création, commande de l'OSM au compositeur canadien Christos Hatzis et inspirée par The Tempest. Du tintamarre se détachent graduellement quelques références: musique de film, trémolos des cordes suggérant un unisson de voix humaines, long solo de trombone hésitant entre Mahler et Sibelius et repris par tout l'orchestre en modulant, style Scriabine. En 13 minutes, sans une seconde d'ennui, voici une musique qui est à la fois d'aujourd'hui et accessible parce que tonale. Le public ovationne le compositeur venu sur scène.] Claude Gingras, La Presse (Montreal, Quebec)

Another premiere, this time the European one, was The Isle Is Full of Noises by the Greek-Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. This work, quite Shakespearian in its dramatical intensity and thematical intention, was commissioned by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra just two years ago. Inspired by The Tempest, in particular the two famous extracts about the dreams, noises, sounds and a humming of ‘a thousand twangling instruments,’ Hatzis worked out his own sound representation of Eden and the Creation. The Isle is full of not just the noises but the musical metaphors, recognisable reminiscences of and stylistical references to the music of Scriabin, Debussy, Mahler, Sibelius and Mendelssohn. Sound transformations, significant participation of the wind instruments group with a determinating tuba solo, in combination with beautiful, breathing melodic lines, made this contemporary composition an exciting and accessible listening experience. It formed a perfect close to the first festival concert programme summarizing all the differences, sounds, timbres, melodies and harmonies of all styles and periods, mixed up in a melting pot of cultural, musical and philosophic traditions. The first evening of the Eurasia Festival dissolved immediately all invisible and symbolic borders with a successful escape to dreams. Dreams with their possibility to become a reality. Dreams laying at the very beginning of reality. Dreams of the creation and gardens of Eden, regardless whether they are heaven or human-made ones. Olga de Kort, Bachtrack,(October 8, 2015)

It was breathtaking. Eugene Astapov (Facebook)

That is awesome . . . It's about time!! Down with the boring! Let's create the masterworks of the 21st century!! Congratulations! Richard Mascall (Facebook)

We heard this last night - a splendid work! Many thanks. Catherine Lu (Facebookl)

What a magical performance. Congratulations on a fabulous debut. Deborah McKinney (Facebook)

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