The Shining

for string orchestra (66442)

The main reason to pursue and persevere with this project was a long-standing ambition to immerse myself in the sheer endless reservoir of colours and seductive possibilities of the ensemble. In the same way as the conception of my choir music was driven by the homogeneity of vocal ensembles on the one hand, and the challenge to explore extremes of diversity within their potential on the other, the string orchestra was a natural choice to get my teeth into. Although strings feature in several orchestral works I wrote, it was only recently that I managed to get commissions for two string quartets, which provided an opportunity to focus on strings exclusively.

With the Amsterdam Sinfonietta in mind I focussed on 22 potential soloists with a view to use their individual qualities to the maximum. This explains the design of the score, which is laid out to exploit subdivision whenever the occasion demands it.

Secondly, I have been a great lover of the spatial arrangement of ensembles from my earliest compositions onward (witness Huantan for wind orchestra, 1968). In this instance I split up the ensemble into 3 groups, reflected in the layout of the score. It is assumed that the two main groups on the left and right side of the stage face each other during the performance:

  1. Left side of the stage – violins 1-6, cellos 1-2, Contrabass 1 (with C-ext.)
  2. Right side of the stage – violins 7-12, cellos 3-4, Contrabass 2 (with C-ext.)
  3. Middle and front of the stage – violas 1-4, prominently positioned in a semi-circle.

I have tried to bear this out in all three movements, that is, making sure the left-right-middle arrangement is justified by the music most of the time and by different musical means in each movement. One could argue therefore that the disposition of the ensemble was also instrumental in the design of the music. As a consequence, the violas are often ‘pivotal’ in both literal and musical sense.

Thirdly, the practice of the Sinfonietta to play without conductor has been an important condition, if not restriction, in the design of the music. I made sure that, at all times, somewhere in the ensemble there is either an audible basis for keeping time, or players are available to beat time when the need arises.

The title of the music is both a flirtation with the special meaning it carries in the film of the same name (the visionary gift of the little boy) and the ‘glow’ that is given off by the sound of strings… The music also occasionally refers to a Hinterland that I was brought up in. I no longer feel ashamed to reveal my roots and pay tribute to my sources of inspiration.

Total duration is approximately 22 minutes.

The Shining came into being with financial assistance from the Performing Arts Fund in the Netherlands.

The music is dedicated to my late friend, Ken Hancock, whom I respected as an artist whose great skill and vision shines through in his paintings. His ‘Tribute to Jan Vriend’ was in turn inspired by my composition Jets d’Orgue (www.kbhancock.co.uk).

Tetbury, November 2012.