Standing Stone

Standing Stone album artwork - Paul McCartneyRecorded: March-July 1997
Producer: John Fraser

Released: 6 October 1997 (UK), 23 September 1997 (US)

London Symphony Orchestra
London Symphony Chorus
Lawrence Foster: conductor
Janice Graham: leader
Stephen Westrop: chorus master

Tracklisting:
Movement I – After heavy light years

  • Fire/Rain – Allegro energico
  • Cell Growth – Semplice
  • ‘Human’ Theme – Maestoso

Movement II – He awoke startled

  • Meditation – Contemplativo
  • Crystal Ship – Con moto scherzando
  • Sea Voyage – Pulsating, with cool jazz feel
  • Lost At Sea – Sognando
  • Release – Allegro con spirito

Movement III – Subtle colours merged soft contours

  • Safe Haven/Standing Stone – Pastorale con moto
  • Peaceful moment – Andante tranquillo
  • Messenger – Energico
  • Lament – Lamentoso
  • Trance – Misterioso
  • Eclipse – Eroico

Movement IV – Strings pluck, horns blow, drums beat

  • Glory Tales – Trionfale
  • Fugal Celebration – L’istesso tempo. Fresco
  • Rustic Dance – Rustico
  • Love Duet – Andante intimo
  • Celebration – Andante

Standing Stone, Paul McCartney‘s second full-length classical music work, was released shortly after his Flaming Pie album in 1997.

McCartney received the commission from by Richard Lyttleton, the president of EMI Classics, to write the work as part of EMI’s centenary celebrations.

Unlike his earlier classical project, Liverpool Oratorio, for which he worked with Carl Davis, this time he had no full-time collaborator. He did, however, work with several classical musicians. He began by composing on the piano, recording demos which were transcribed by jazz musician Steve Lodder.

The music began with a series of rough ideas and previously-composed yet unused melodies. On 18 May 1994 McCartney began working on a demo, and on 16 and 22 September two compilation tapes were compiled, containing early versions of the first two movements.

Work continued on the second movement on 27 September, and the results were put onto tape the following day.

In early 1995 a copy of the Cubase sequencing software was set up on an Apple Macintosh computer at McCartney’s Hog Hill Mill studio in Sussex. It allowed him to compose on a connected keyboard and turn the resulting recordings into full musical notation.

While this new method allowed him greater freedom than the traditional transcription that had occurred for Liverpool Oratorio, it also led to some anomalies.

I was making a lot of very modern sounding music, but I started to enjoy some of the ‘mistakes’, realising that if I had thought them up then I would have rejected them.
Paul McCartney

The first piece written using Cubase was Inebriation, on 3 March 1995. Composed for string quarted, it was left off Standing Stone but eventually recorded by the Brodsky Quartet for the Working Classical album.

Not having come from a classical background, McCartney required collaborators to help him develop his ideas. He worked with classical musicians Richard Rodney Bennett, John Harle and David Matthews on Standing Stone, as well as producer John Fraser and conductor Lawrence Foster.

David Matthews worked with McCartney on the first draft of the music manuscript.

I was impressed with his instinctive orchestral ability, his imagination; it wasn’t an orchestral imagination, it wasn’t rock music which was translated to orchestra, it was real orchestral music.
David Matthews

Saxophonist John Harle helped with the architecture of the overall work, and helped McCartney develop certain motifs.

John advised me on the structure of the piece, helping me shape the sketches I’d made. He also made sense out of the second movement’s ‘Lost at sea’ section, translating what was on the computer into recognised notation, and worked on the ‘Trance’ section in the third movement.
Paul McCartney

McCartney also used the knowledge of Richard Rodney Bennett, who was in charge of supervising the orchestration and worked on improving the final arrangement.

There were one or two difficult moments. I would often fax sections of music from my computer to Richard Rodney Bennett. I sent him one, thinking it was pretty good. A few minutes later, I got a fax back with the word ‘Feeble’ scribbled across it. I phoned him straight back and said, ‘Richard, that’s what my teacher wrote on my essays. You’re a sensitive artist, and if you don’t like something, could you please write, ‘That’s a little below par’.’
Paul McCartney

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