Commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, generously supported with funds from the Cruden Foundation and the RVW Trust
Instrumentation: Chamber orchestra and live electronics
First performance: Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Nicolas Altstaedt, at Younger Hall, St Andrews, on 7 November 2018
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
John Donne, from Meditation XVII (1624)
John Donne’s famous ‘Meditation XVII’ (1624) exhorts us to recognise our shared humanity, a plea which is utterly contemporary in a world where self-interest and insularity threaten to divide communities and smother alternative discourses. Donne’s reflections are triggered by the tolling of a distant bell, the sound of which provides the basic material for this piece, through both recorded samples and the orchestra's harmonic material.
Rung out across the country when Armistice was declared, church bells are potent markers of both joy and despair, public sounds with personal resonances summoning a complex web of associations. In association with SCO Connect, the Armistice Bells project invited members of the public to record their local church bells to be included within the electronic fabric of the piece.
A series of huge composite bell-strikes gradually disperses and is woven into a softly tolling tapestry of bells surrounding the audience. From within the orchestra a song is born, grows, then fades away. All the while the bells continue, a reverberating tracery of recorded sound contributed by members of the public across Scotland. Eventually these too fade, and the tapestry dissolves.