Quiescence for BP


It’s true, I am a bit prone to writing intense and dense music. (Which puts me in mind of the English Choral Tradition nickname for one of Haydn’s motets: Insane and vain curates). So far the series of heretical bagatelles have conformed to this pattern, and indeed have pushed the limits of what might reasonably be considered a bagatelle. While I have incorporated slow sections into many of my pieces—a spaceme(a)nt for ik(s)land[s] and the gallery of spaces from the Piano Sonata for instance—they have tended to function as attenuations or defestinations rather than actual slow material.

I decided that it was time to confront this horror vacui; coincidentally, I resumed contact with an old friend, the neurodiverse composer and pianist Bruce Petherick, now resident in wildest Canada, which is, apparently, “Paradise”. Bruce, very much unlike me, thinks cold is desirable. Much of Bruce’s work is concerned with stillness and the slow, which led me to the idea of doing a heretical bagatelle in homage to him.

I started from the viewpoint of inactivity which signified latency rather than stasis, quiescence rather than quietude, hence Quiescence for BP. The score carries the prefatory definition:

Quiesc’ent adjective

  1. Resting, tranquil

  2. (Of a letter) not sounded

  3. Inactive, without input to activate it (computing)

  4. Still

The program note observes that like all my pieces, the work is a continuously changing rigorous forcefield. In this instance, however, so few notes are dropped-in that the underlying architecture is never entirely realised nor fully expressed. What exists is a faint, sketched-in, trace of the edifice that sits behind, like software that is barely running. Paradoxically, the resulting sonic surface has an extempore feel.

I finished the piece on 26 May this year; consequently there has not been time for anyone to perform it and the audio on this page is a MIDI realisation—a machine performance, but one which gives at least a sense of the piece’s character. Unlike most of my works, there is not a manuscript; the engraved score was made directly from my atrocious sketches by the indefatigable Andrew Bernard.

MIDI realisation