For several years I consciously avoided writing concert music designed to work in combination with other artistic disciplines. Recently I began to think about turning again to this kind of composition, and particularly about the prospect of working with music and verbal language. The invitation to write for the Workers Union ensemble arrived around the same time that I discovered the poem Night Walking by Sam Grinsell – a happy coincidence. I was struck by the temporal stasis the poem implied; although the protagonist recounts observations made over a short period of time, the language used implies a frozen time, a crystallisation of the scene that permits endless admiration of its beauty. The poem contemplatively describes a conurbation, bristling with artificiality, nestled beneath the vast semi-darkness of the late dusk sky. Particularly striking to me is the emphasis placed on different types of light. I’ve long been fascinated by the interaction of artificial and natural light and the way this influences our perception of the world around us. Perhaps the greatest affect is on our sense of space. Here again Sam’s text is particularly evocative, giving a sense of endless, perhaps lonely spaciousness that complements the feeling of suspended time.
Night Walking is not intended as programmatic music. My aim was to manifest in sound a kind of colouristic ballet comparable to the interplay of artificial and natural light witnessed as the sun becomes imprisoned by the horizon, with all the shifting shadows that result and the subsequent affect on our perception of shape and space. The music does not describe visual phenomena. Rather, the spoken word and musical sounds work independently to give the impression of gradual shifts seemingly held in a temporary stasis. The final words of Sam’s poem seem fitting here:
Come with me / We will explore the solitary night / The endless twilight at the edge of town / Where only drunks and madmen care to tread / And which we are / We can decide.
5 minutes – 6 minutes 40 seconds
The tape part can be broadcast through any sensible medium. The recorded speech should be clearly audible to all audience members. However, there is freedom to choose from any available carrier of the audio data (it may remain digital or be transferred to an analogue medium). Similarly, any available means of transmission is permitted, including lower fidelity systems (as long as the recorded speech remains decipherable).
July 2011: Workers Union Ensemble, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London
April 2012: Workers Union Ensemble, Turner Sims, Southampton
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