mixed chamber ensemble (flute, bass clarinet, horn, bass trombone, cello, double bass)
Commissioned and premiered by 175 East
I started this piece by deliberately contravening the orchestrational intuitions I had for this peculiar ensemble. Instead of allowing the instruments’ potential for a certain brusqueness to dictate the material, I began with sounds that skirt the limits of register and audibility. The fugitivity of these gestures is an ideal palate-cleanser after the more stentorian assertions of which this group is capable. By working against the instruments’ natural modes of production and expression, the temporal flow becomes unstable and insecure. This sense of precariousness is intensified by radical deformations of a germinal pitch structure (a harmonic series based on E-flat), resulting in strange hybrid harmonic fields littered with microtonal deviations. Melodic contour is treated with a certain viscosity by frequent use of glissandi when transitioning from one deformation to another. At the same time, there is a temporal anxiety which pervades the structure — contradictory periodic rhythms never quite achieve the status of metrical delineation. Elsewhere, expressive motifs bubble up to the surface semi-formed,forging an interface between an unvalorised sonic backdrop and ‘emotive’ foreground figurations.
The title of this work is taken from the last line of the love poem Les Ombres by Jacques Prévert.