Uhtceare for Flute, Percussion, Violin and Cello.
Composed 2014, published 2016. Score included in UYMP's Firewheel Anthology (ISMN M-57036-615-6), recorded by Dark Inventions.
Uhtceare is an Old English word meaning ‘anxiety before dawn’ – surely a familiar experience to many, not just the Anglo-Saxons. I particularly associate it with the half-awake, early-morning asthma attacks that I had as a child. The piece starts in a nocturnal, dreamlike state with chords that pulse gently, like the rise and fall of breaths. These swelling patterns become increasingly fraught, while soloists sporadically emerge with a sense of urgency, and culminate in a loud, chaotic passage where the percussionist moves from tuned Percussion to Drums.
Following this, the Flute plays agile, looping figures that are soon mimicked by the Violin and then the Vibraphone. These figures are frenetic but harmonically static, so that when all three instruments are playing them simultaneously, there is a whirlwind of activity that paradoxically seems to remain stationary. I thought this was a fitting musical analogue for the fruitless but insistent circling of anxious early-morning thoughts. A dramatic Cello solo interrupts these imitative cycles and leads the ensemble in a cacophonous final crescendo.
Commissioned by Dark Inventions and first performed by them on 8th May 2014 at The Engine House, Manchester.