• Emily Howard
  • Compass (2022)
    (for solo percussion and strings)

  • Peters Edition Limited (World)
  • perc + str
  • Percussion
  • 20 min

Programme Note

Compass (2021–22) is scored for percussion and string septet. Percussion sounds arise from a pallet of metallic resonances, often extremely quiet, some stable and others less so, against which the strings oscillate between richly romantic gestures and their imagined counterparts, as though experienced from within differently curved musical spaces.  

The work takes inspiration from the multiple meanings of the title – as a noun: ‘space, area, extent, circumference’; and as a verb: ‘to surround, contain, envelop, enclose’.

‘Compass’ has a mathematical sense in Romance, a nautical sense in Germanic languages, and both in English. The mathematical instrument for describing circles was so called in English from the mid-14th century, and the mariners’ directional tool gained its name in the early 15th century.  

There is a sense of circling through differently curved spaces, some positively curved, some negatively curved, some familiar, and others estranged.
Emily Howard, March 2022

“charged with structural tension and packed with dramatic flourishes”
The Wire, May 2023

“here we see industrial sounds used as a primary driver of development, created using extended technique and percussive textures. The lower registers of the strings are also heavily exploited… relishing in the stark contrasts of timbres available … oscillating between these extremes, this is music-making at its most dynamic.”
*****Freya Parr, BBC Music Magazine, June 2023

NMC Recordings Torus


Compass recorded by BCMG, Gabriella Teychenne, Julian Warburton (NMC)