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Four Archetypes

for large orchestra
1994


10

Four Archetypes

for large orchestra

 

Composed: Cambridge, December-July 1993

Commissioned by the Cambridge-Heidelberg-Montpelier Orchestra with funds provided by Eastern Arts

Performed: Fanfares only - August 1993, West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge


The composition of Four Archetypes was begun immediately following the completion of Three Pieces for Two Pianos. I had first learned about the commission in June/July 1992, so a number of ideas were already in my mind before work began in earnest.

The basic form of what was to become the first piece of the four had been in my mind since about 1987. During a walk in the Durham Dales, I had a sudden and distinct realisation of the vastness of the landscape: large, rolling, barren hills disappearing into the distance. This landscape felt as if it were one huge texture; every now and then, a sudden flash of a car window, a bird, another person; something that appeared and disappeared very quickly, seen in the corner of the eye, hardly affecting the landscape. This formed the opening idea of what became Fanfares. A further, later influence was from a rock song: Money for Nothing, by the band Dire Straits. At the opening of this song, a sustained texture is gradually energized and eventually overcome by a series of percussion 'breaks', at first short and widely separated, becoming gradually more dense until a vast concatenation of percussion leads into the main part of the song.

Originally the piece was to be called Acts. This was an oblique reference to the Act of Worship broadcast on Sunday morning on BBC Radio 4 for as long as I can remember. I still have plans to write a piece using this title, evoking a delightfully formal approach to a potentially profound spiritual happening. Acts was to be in one movement, with the Fanfares music opening the piece. The second idea was originally based around a set of brass and woodwind Calls resembling, at least to begin with, a sort of orchestra of Tibetan mountain horns (or at least what I thought this would sound like). This, again, was an idea that I had wanted to use for some time: about two years before it had reached semi-fruition in an eventually abandoned piece for ten-piece brass ensemble.

These calls were to give way to a faster, more substantial section, Dances. After a climactic passage, there was to be a coda: a prestissimmo and exuberant Jamboree.

This form was abandoned towards the end of April, when a hectic consultation with Professor Casken convinced me of a number of problems in the piece.

As there was a time problem, the obvious solution was to cut the piece into different short movements broadly resembling the original version. The Calls, one of the main problem areas, were excised entirely, to be replaced by Dirges, and a finale was added including a brief recapitulation of the Fanfares, moving to a prestissimmo, Jamboree coda.

In the Introduction above the use of 'generic' titles was mentioned, and along with Three Pieces, this piece encapsulates many of those ideas. As the titles are 'generic', the pieces they refer to are not specifically fanfares, or dirges, or dances, but they make use of the archetypal idea of those activities. So, the Dances are not specific dances, but the piece was composed with the idea of dancing and dancers in mind. Ironically, the one movement which could not be associated with a particular 'activity' was the last one, not least because it was split, involving elements of two of the previous movements before launching into the jamboree coda, and yet in this respect it was the 'archetypal' form of the nineteenth-century finale.

More about the piece

Sound versions available: midi


MIDI

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