• Joby Talbot
  • Incandescence (1998)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Brunel Ensemble

  • 1(pic)11.ssx.111112perchp.pfstr(1.1.1.1.1)
  • 2 perc/2pf
  • percussion
  • 20 min

Programme Note

Incandesce - vb. to be luminous by heat
Incandescence - n. a white heat
Incandescent - adj. white hot
(Chambers English dictionary)

In 1997, I wrote a piece for the BBC Philharmonic called Luminescence, which is everything Incandescence isn’t - slow, calm and quiet, with the emphasis on slow development rather than a contrast.

I wanted to make a percussion concerto in which the soloist has only one set-up, rather than having to dart about all over stage playing every instrument in the cupboard. After all, if I were writing a violin concerto, I would want to explore my favourite facets of the violin and wouldn’t expect the player to swap between viola, cello and banjo as well. So Julian Warburton and I invented an instrument which could sustain the entirety of the musical argument. Basically, it’s an extended drum kit, with more than the usual quota of tom-toms and some cowbells, woodblocks and gongs added. (I had to use the gongs as Julian had brought them all the way back from Beijing).

Joby Talbot

To counteract the problem of having no properly tuned instruments, I’ve written very strong harmonic progressions in the accompaniment to constantly drive the music on, and have often tried to suggest melody in the solo part by having it mirror the melodic lines in the orchestra. The piece is in two movements with identical introductions, featuring a four-chord gesture from which the bulk of the music grows. It lasts about 20 minutes. Much of the solo part, particularly in the latter part of the concerto, is heavily influenced by certain types of dance music particularly hip hop and jungle. While writing the piece, I was working on a techno project with programmer Steve Hilton, using material taken from Incandescence, and there has been a definite musical cross-fertilisation.

Incandescence is dedicated to my great friend Chris Austin.

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