Commissioned jointly for Colin Currie by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Borletti-Buitoni Trust. First performance on 14th May 2008, at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, by Colin Currie (percussion) and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins.
NOTE FOR PERFORMANCE
In table top, the unpitched solo percussion part in the 9th movement, the scoring was initially left open. The present full score shows a suggested instrumentation which was devised by Colin Currie in conjunction with the composer. Soloists should attempt to match the timbres used, but should not feel constrained by the exact choice of instruments.
The percussion instruments used in a table of noises in some ways represent the odd things that were on my great uncle Ash’s parlour table that fascinated me as a child. There is even a bottle; there was always a milk bottle with the silver top pushed in surrounded by other essentials for his life. From birth he was quite severely handicapped in one of his legs and couldn’t walk too far without his trusty crutch. He kept everything he needed within arm’s length.
In the list of instruments for the solo part there’s everything from deep log drum sounds to very high metallic chime sounds. Wood, glass, metal and a whistle. Mostly small-scale things with a large gong behind, used sparingly. I think that we managed to keep below 30 instruments in all, which I was keen to do. I didn’t want scores of things that are only played once, they have to earn their keep. I didn’t want to use a marimba but thought that trying to make the xylophone sound in a more expressive way would be more of a challenge. The percussionist sits for much of the time on a Cajon, a flamenco instrument which is essentially a wooden box. The player hits the front of the box in various ways, rather as you play a conga. There are guitar strings inside and bells to add to the overall colour.
I would like to thank Colin Currie for the extraordinary 3 hours or so that we spent in his percussion studio trying to find potential instruments for table top. I had fully notated the rhythms for the movement, which functions as a cadenza, and knew the kinds of sounds that I wanted, but as I don’t know all the instruments available we were able to collaborate in a very constructive way and make the cadenza what it is now. I see the chosen instruments as being the yardstick for all future performances.