• Anthony Payne
  • The Stones and Lonely Places Sing (1979)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • fl(pic).cl(bcl)/hn/pf/vn.va.vc
  • 18 min

Programme Note

THE STONES AND LONELY PLACES SING is a tone poem, one of the most difficult forms to talk about sensibility. Even some of the most renowed examples of the genre have in the past been analysed in a naively pictorial or descriptive way, and commentators have been deceived into denigrating the works for lack of musical self-sufficiency. The truth, howver, is that extra-musical elements rarely influence more than the character of individual themes or the superficial aspects of structure in such music. The real expressive substance for the tone poem is woven accordig to music's own laws.

In the present work, for instance, I could say that the physiognomy of some of the more primitive, repetitive material stemmed from my feelings about certain physical phenomena: the fingers brushed over the piano strings present the distant sound of the surf, perhaps, and the horn's inhuman attempts to sing are the stones' attempts to voice their un-feeling. Then there is something of the golden light we experience at times on the western seaboard of the British Isles in the quiet polyphony of string lines heard twice during the course of the piece.

Otherwise the work is best approached musically as befits its essential nature. It is laid out in seven continous sections whose lenghts are governed by the proportions 3 2 7 4 1 6 5; the first 12 bars long (3 x 7), the second 14 bars (2 x 7), te third 49 and so on. There are two alternating types of material which begin to cross fertilise each other in the last two sections. The first type, exposed in Section 1, includes the primitive elements mentioned above which are supported by a sequence of seven long held notes (7 is a magic number in the work, and the series 1 - 7 in various orders is a prime generator of micro and macro structures). The second type is purer in style and consists of a number of canons whose first appearance in Section 2 is heard in terms of the ensemble's deepest sonorities, low horn, bass-clarinet, cello and piano in its bottom register. For those who seek relationships between poetic idea and musical process, it is perhaps worth saying that this passage emerged in my mind as a result of the notion of lonely places at night with the calling of beasts real or imagined. Later in the work, however, the material is developed and transformed in purely musical ways, and loses those associations.

Section 3 returns to the first type of music and puts flesh on the bones of Section 1, filling in the many gaps in the argument that had occurred there, and producing the first climax of the work. For me, there was a strong analogy with the placing under powerful magnification of objects, say in the heavens, which appear to the naked eye to fall into a few isolated patterns. Pointed at the same patterns, the telescope shows a very different world, populating what had seemed empty space, revealing the unseen and with it a whole new newtork of relationships.

In Section 4, the counterpoint which had unfolded in the bass in Section 2 is lifted into the centre of the textures, and it is developed canonically and enriched with free cantabile lines to give the effect of translucent light mentioned earlier.

Section 5 is the shortest in the work (corresponding to 1 in the proportional series 3 2 7 4 1 6 5) and is merely a link to Section 6 where the two types of material now develop in harness. A climax is reached, matching the one heard earlier and it leads into the final section where the music, while still evolving in a potic way, recedes into the kind of distant, fragmentary statement characteristic of the opening of the work.

THE STONES AND LONELY PLACES SING was written between Dcember 1978 and July 1979. It is dedicated to Amelia Freedman, who commissioned it, and to my friends in the Nash Ensemble on their fifteenth anniversary. The Nash Ensemble conducted by Mark Elder gave the first performance at the Round House, London at a BBC Promenade Concert on 2 September 1979.


Scenes from the Woodlanders
The Stones and Lonely Places Sing



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