The Madness Industry

For Brass Quintet
(2012) 12 minutes

Commissioned by Onyx Brass and premiered at the Live Room, Twickenham Stadium, September 25, 2012.

Programme note

This work was inspired by Jon Ronsonʼs recent best-selling book The Psychopath Test. In the book Jon takes a compelling adventure into the world of madness, meeting psychopaths and the people who diagnose them, including Bob Hare, the psychologist that developed the Psychopath Checklist, from which Jon learns the art of psychopath spotting. The book is very humorous but asks serious questions about how we define normality in a world where we are increasingly judged by our maddest edges (in one chapter he meets a booker for the Jeremy Kyle show who perfected the art of detecting people who were just ʻmad enoughʼ to be entertaining, but not too mad as to cause disturbing viewing for a public wanting to both identify with and be repelled by the unfortunate people on their screens. 

The work is not at all programmatic, and it was only after committing to write a piece on this subject that I realised that being inspired by people who lack any form of empathy and only mimic charm and sincerity in order to manipulate others was, well, hard to be inspired by. So instead, this work employs some of the facets of a psychopathʼs character in the very fabric of the work: harmony is “manipulated”, with chords gradually being transformed into other chords and calm textures and lyrical melodies are suddenly disrupted with violent, ʻpsychopathicʼ outbursts. 

The work was commissioned and premiered by Onyx Brass in 2012 with funding from the PRS Women Fund. 

© Cheryl Frances-Hoad, 2012


"Frances-Hoad's The Madness Industry for brass quintet snarls and unsettles, performed with biting wit and precision by Onyx Brass"

Kate Wakeling, BBC Music Magazine

Performance history (post-premiere)

15th November 2019 - Stockholm Brass Quintet at the Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden

9th January 2013 - Onyx Brass atSt. James’ Church, Chiping Campden, UK 

24th October 2012 - Onyx Brass at the Crucible, Sheffield, UK 

25th September 2012 - Onyx Brass at Richmond Concert Society, UK


Buy Flux, NMC's CD featuring The Madness Industry

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Watch the NMC CD trailer on YouTube