The power of music to symbolise the process and feeling of leaving has been exploited in Western music, at least since that immortal expression of the pain of parting in Purcell’s ‘Dido’s Lament’. Beethoven’s ‘Adieux’ and Mahler’s ‘Der Abschied’ add deepening nuances, to both the strictly musical (certain falling steps, a languid bittersweetness) and the poetic content of the aspects of leaving.In ‘Aspects of Leaving’ the melancholy and evocative sides of leaving are the composer’s focus, expressed through a series of stages, each of which is seemingly a kind of reaction or reflection on what has just been presented. This earlier stage in turn has that retrospective character of what previously took place… The unfolding of a larger structure is therefore based on reaction, since everything is echoing far earlier stages. So what may appear to be a reaction to a ‘daughter of’ the previous stage, may prove to be a kind of great-grandmother! In this way the element of time takes on a spiralling attribute – stages always echoing each other in new ways. But yet another aspect of leaving comes into play when a kind of ‘Utopian coda’ is established: the aspect of hope, which Socrates presents so compellingly in his reflections on death (“a new world maybe, how exciting!..”). This is expressed mainly in a never-ending ‘quodlibet’ – a kind of vortex – with new characters attempting to obtain identity – that is, the attention of the listener. (P.N.)
First Performance: COMA Orchestra, Apr 1998, ISCM World Music Days, RNCM, Manchester
This piece comprises nine short “Episodes” and 4 “Interludes” many of which join without a break. Each of the interludes is scored for reduced forces and two of them (one for wind and one for strings) are optional. This is a fascinating and worthwhile piece with plenty to interest and to challenge all sections of the orchestra. However, the rhythms and time signatures that appear, at first, to be rather difficult, become quite approachable once the structure and the spirit of the piece are familiar. Although specifically scored, some flexibility of instrumentation is permitted by the composer.
COMA (with funds from New Music ’98)