Chris Newman’s Song to God (1994) for Solo Organ: Blurred Repetition, Visual Communication, and Embodied Information

Redhead, L. 2019. Chris Newman’s Song to God (1994) for Solo Organ: Blurred Repetition, Visual Communication, and Embodied Information. Context, 45, pp. 19-30. [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article examines the role that the embodied experiences of the performer might play in the analysis of contemporary music. In particular, it examines how this information might provide clues to the ways certain compositional decisions could be read by the analyst and listener, considering that notation alone does not convey every aspect of the ‘work’ of the performance of a piece of music, and therefore of its sounding result. Here, I describe and analyse the music of the solo organ piece in four movements, Song to God (1994), by the British composer Chris Newman, in order to explore how information about the music gained through performance might contribute to its analytical assessment. This is not a well-known work within the contemporary organ repertory, and its composer is also not a well-known figure within contemporary music, and so a further aim of this analysis is to make the material and content of the piece accessible to a wider range of performers and listeners, along with the music’s particular pleasures and challenges.1 In particular, my analysis focuses on types of repetition in the music, both across its movements and in its use of borrowed materials from Newman’s other works. Questions of patterned musical organisation are drawn out, specifically in relation to the issues created by the timbral changes notated by the composer and the challenge of their realisation. The work with the instrument that is required to realise these changes, despite the ‘portability’ that recommends them, is an important part of understanding the construction of the work. Finally, this analysis considers the source materials of the music and their original contexts, as far as they can be known. This allows the consideration of the music in context, and the relevance of these materials to listeners when they are transferred to their new context in this organ piece.

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2 December 2019Accepted
31 December 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

31 Jan 2020 12:15

Last Modified:

31 Dec 2021 02:26

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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