Commissioned by Roche Young Commissions for Lucerne Festival 2017. Premiered 2 September 2017, at KKL Luzern with Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra with conductor Jeffrey Means. Broadcast on SRF (Switzerland) and BBC Radio 3 (January 2018).
The score can be viewed and purchased here.
Encounters was inspired by the famous work ‘the Encounter’ by the Dutch artist M.C. Escher. Escher’s lithograph is a monochromatic work depicting several dark and light figures engaged in a kind of cyclical dance. Typically for many of the artist’s designs, the dancing characters interlock or tesselate with one another so that the lighter figures and darker figures appear to form out of one another’s shadows.
An ongoing concern of my music is the juxtaposition and contrapuntal layering of different musical ideas. For me, this approach opens up the possibility of conflict or tension between these musical entities as they interact with one another. Thus one key feature of the piece this is numerous different musical characters that ‘encounter’ one another (or a times even emerge out of one another’s shadows).
However, the dancing depicted in Escher’s image also inspired more literal parallels, as the different musical ‘characters’ are all based on traditional dances from the Western repertory.
The opening idea is a kind of Habanera (with its characteristic triplet rhythm in the first half of the bar), but with an unstable character that veers constantly between loud (even distorted) and quiet states, and rapidly shifts between slower and faster tempi.
Yet right from the start, other ideas begin to insinuate themselves into the texture. Outbursts of loud brass chords, and a sinister line in the contrabass clarinet, keep disrupting the Habanera, until it emerges that they really belong to the much earthier and more rhythmic tango heard later.
Amongst the many other ‘dance’ forms (or characters) heard in the work is a Sicilienne, written with a substantial solo for the Oboe D’Amore accompanied by a much smaller orchestra, in a language suggestive of much earlier music. Indeed, each dance has its own distinct harmonic and instrumental colour, so that the each separate character can be clearly perceived even as they are all combined within the overarching narrative of the work.