Pieces of Light

For Renaissance Recorder Quartet
(2018) 5 minutes

Commissioned by The Flautadors for their 20th Anniversary, premiere date/venue tbc.

Programme note

Pieces of Light was commissioned by the Flautadors for their 20thAnniversary. When the group approached me about writing a piece, I had just finished reading Pieces of Light; The New Science of Memory by Charles Fernyhough, and it struck me that a work inspired by memories and how they are created in our brains would be very appropriate for a group of musicians celebrating such a wonderful milestone. A quote by Nabokov in particular provided ideas for both the rapid, rhythmic music that starts and ends the piece and the slow, 'light-filled' chords of the middle section:

[In Nabokov's autobiography, Speak, Memory, he sees] 'the awakening of consciousness as a series of spaced flashes, with the intervals between them gradually diminishing until bright blocks of perception are formed, affording memory a slippery hold.'

In addition, this work has really been shaped by the recorders themselves: before writing, I spent several hours with Ian Wilson (a member of the group) learning about the myriad different types of instrument I could write for. The renaissance instruments particularly appealed due to their fabulous timbre, despite the fact that, due to their open hole design, diatonic music works much better than anything chromatic. I became rather obsessed with the idea of writing chromatic music for diatonic instruments, and so in this piece I use recorders at both modern (A440) and baroque (A415, a semi-tone lower) pitch. This allowed me to write a piece that uses all twelve semitones of the scale throughout, whilst never writing a note for any individual recorder that falls outside its particular diatonic major scale: a compositional device that pleased me greatly!

© Cheryl Frances-Hoad, 2019