Commissioned by the BBC for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Tectonics Festival

Instrumentation: Symphony Orchestra ( - - perc. hp strings)
Duration: c.12'
First Performance: 12 May 2013, City Halls Glasgow, BBCSSO / Ilan Volkov (cond.)

perusal score


It’s hard to resist, I find, when in a large space, the urge to clap or shout or sing and listen to the sound bounce around and decay.  In one sense, that is all there is to this piece, with the orchestra taking the role of both impudent child and cathedral.  The advantage of this kind of metaphorical model is that one can play fast and loose with the laws of physics: walls can move, echoes can distort, resonance can be captured, extended and manipulated as I see fit.  Release is the moment of letting go, of letting other forces take over.  Imagine repeatedly throwing a ball into a landscape of high winds and somewhat erratic gravitational fluctuations…

There are three main sections in this piece.  Each is formed from the repetition of a particular type of impulse; each has its own type of resonating release component.  In all three sections the release portion has a tendency to take on a life of its own and overwhelm the initiating material.  In the first section, loud common-chord strikes by the whole orchestra leave behind a trace of microtonal clusters, which eventually blossom into rich, resonant harmonies.  During the second section a viola and cor anglais melody gradually expands to fill the available space.  The final section features chaotic, dense harmonic exhalations which gradually coalesce into simple pulses.  In the uppermost register of the violins, a song begins to emerge.