Title: Sympathetic Resonance

Year: 2015

Instrumentation: Symphony Orchestra

Program note:

In Sympathetic Resonance the orchestra is re-imagined as if it were a giant tanpura (the resonant drone instrument of Indian music). In the visual foreground the piano sits before the orchestra, as in a concerto, but rather than acting as soloist it serves as a resonator for trumpet and trombone soloists who, facing away from the audience, play directly into the piano to create quietly glowing shadows of the orchestral sound. Though cast in five movements, the music articulates a single melodic arc which first emerges from the low ‘E’ drone as a gradually ascending melody of natural harmonics in the four horns.

The first entry of the violins and piccolos towards the end of the second movement heralds the repetitive cycles of melodic fragments which dominate the third movement. These in turn give way to the full orchestra playing a cantabile unison melody (which was in fact the first aspect of the piece to be composed) decorated by intricate textural filigree. Arriving at the final movement this decorative filigree disintegrates into cascading figures and the music suddenly turns inward with a solo piccolo and piccolo trumpet engaging in a call-and-response above the gentle resonances of trombone, triangles, tam-tams and bass drums.

The closing alternation of the notes ‘B’ and ‘G’ – and the note-by-note emergence of a harmonic spectrum on ‘G’ in a gesture reminiscent of Claude Vivier – reveal the piece as a memorial to the  wonderful Bob Gilmore, whose writings and person have inspired me for many years.