Toovey, Andrew

About the work

Acrobats “was originally scored for three groups of mixed woodwind and brass players. The work is dedicated to sculptor John Davies on the occasion of his forty – ninth birthday. The idea for Acrobats comes directly from a group of human figures John Davies has made since the early ’80s which are on ladders, swings, ropes, trapeze, and which he sees as something of a human circus, life’s circus. At first I wrote many musical ideas which I felt captured the movement and life of these magnificent figures. It suddenly struck me that I had been looking at them in a rather obvious way. Imagining actual movement rather than a captured moment, movement or gesture. The patina of painted skin texture also seems to suggest their immobile state. Once I had ‘looked’ in a different way my own work dramatically changed. I thought about making my music clear and ritualistic. Rather than simply creating a music for these figures to dance to I made music that I hope mirrors their intensity.”

This new version for Open Score was produced on 2016.

First Performance: COMA Summer School Wind Ensemble, Aug 1995, Bretton Hall, West Yorkshire

Technical notes

The music, with its strident harmonies contrasted with lyrical passages captures the movement and life of the sculptures and mirrors their intensity. Once the sound world of the opening section is absorbed, the strident harmonic clashes feel natural. The final (almost ‘pastoral’) section contains some complex rhythms but a certain leeway is allowed by the composer which certainly helps to overcome many of the more difficult moments. Wind players will need some stamina for this piece as it often explores areas near the extremes of the instruments. Acrobats also works very well in its arrangement for full orchestra.


COMA (with funds from the Arts Council of England)


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score & parts


Sample score



10m 00s




Flexible Ensemble


flexible ensemble
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