Commissioned by Barry Guy

  • baroque violin (or violin) & doublebass
  • 10 min

Programme Note

Fiddlesticks was written between October 1994 (in London) and January 1995 (in Ghana). There was a hiccough (or hiccup) in its composition after I left it in a train from Kings Cross to Cambridge. Miraculously, it turned up at the Lost Property office six weeks later - all praise to British Rail, Railtrax Inc., or whatever they are now called. But the flow had been interrupted, and it was not until I was back in the peace and safety of Konkonuru that I got it moving again.

It was commissioned by my fellow composer and star bassist Barry Guy and baroque violist Maya Homburger, with funds from nowhere but their own pockets. I am deeply grateful for their generosity. The piece exists in two versions (both playable from this (performing score). I wrote it for baroque violin and bass - the baroque fiddle sounding a semitone lower than written. This allows use of natural harmonics a semitone apart - a rare and interesting effect. However, in the course of writing I realised that the piece would work equally well - though quite differently - if I played a modern violin at concert pitch. This brings harmonics back in line, but it does some interesting things which make up for this. So, 'baroque' and 'modern' versions are equally viable.

The cadenza between bars 306 and 307 is completely free, in homage to Barry Guy's formidable improvising talent. It should be thought of as a traditional cadenza, drawing upon material from earlier on in the piece - though here is obviously far more latitude than there would be in a Mozart cadenza. I have prescribed the dynamic shape and the order of play; this apart, the more of their own imagination the performers bring to it, the better.

The unfamiliar time signatures 524 and 824 are simply a way of notating triplets not in multiples of three: a semiquaver in 524 is equal to a triplet semiquaver in 516

The brief excerpt from TS Eliot's The Waste Land on page 18 is for allusive purposes only, and is not heard in performance.

© Giles Swayne 1995