Cloud Triptych
for large orchestra
Programme note

Cloud Triptych was composed during 2016 as the culmination of my Ph.D. at the Birmingham Conservatoire. As the name suggests, the work takes its inspiration from the taxonomy of cloud formations, of which there are 27 distinct types, arranged in three altitudinal layers of nine. These types were reconceived as musical behaviours, which were arranged in a similarly tiered arrangement. The work was composed by designing trajectories that move around these behaviours, resulting in abstract journeys that feature periods of stability amidst episodes of transitional flux.

In the first movement, which lasts around five-and-a-half minutes, I wanted to focus on texture, beginning Cloud Triptych in a nebulous, somewhat intangible atmosphere. Using a minimal orchestra, omitting the brass, it explores movement between pairs of (high altitude) behaviours that share strong similarities, broadly structured in two main sequences followed by a coda. The second movement was designed as an extended central panel that would enable me to explore a large number of behaviours in more complex ways. It is therefore the most behaviourally varied of the three movements, taking in all three altitudes. At its epicentre is a large-scale episode focusing on a single behaviour, in which a sequence of shifting harmonic series form the vast backdrop to an acrobatic vibraphone solo. The final movement is the simplest, moving upward from low to high, starting with a full orchestral melody in octaves, alternating with enormous chaotic outbursts, before gradually returning to the more delicate soundworld from which the piece began.

Instrumentation

3 flutes (1/2 = piccolo, 2/3 = alto flute)
3 oboes (2/3 = cor anglais)
3 Bb clarinets (1 = Eb clarinet, 2/3 = bass clarinet)
3 bassoons (2/3 = contrabassoon)

4 horns
3 trumpets (1 = piccolo trumpet)
3 trombones
bass tuba

percussion (2 players): glockenspiel, vibraphone, 3 triangles (small–large), 3 Chinese cymbals (small–large), bass drum (+ rute), 12 wine glasses (high–low), 6 rototoms (small–large), 8 tam-tams (small–large)

strings: 16.14.12.10.8


Score
Audio (synthetic)