This is a very simple piece for orchestra, written to follow a standard programme. It is a kind of "anti-encore", sempre piano, slow and reflective. The music grows from a single note, A, almost as if the orchestra were "tuning down". At the midway point, the music encores itself, on repetition elaborating harmony and timbre, but with a memory of the fundamental counterpoint. Instruments rarely play more than one or two notes at a time, so the music relies on this memory to phrase. Encore is essentially an attempt to give musical meaning to a disembodied notational aesthetic.
Premiere 29 January 2023 in Symphony Hall by the CBSO.
This piece was a response to a commission specifically for an encore. I was tired of hearing encores that could both undermine something poignant and affirm an institution on which, for me, it felt more appropriate to reflect.
Setting out with the specific aim to write an encore is different to writing a short piece for orchestra. Firstly, and most importantly, it sits outside the programme yet its position is determined; secondly, an entire orchestra is already on stage (in other words, it feels acceptable, and perhaps even amusing, to write a part with literally one note to play).
An early idea was that the piece ought to “encore” itself, so more or less from the beginning I was thinking in terms of a repeated structure. Encore is essentially contrapuntal, building from a central A. The harmony quickly expands and then moves away. Looking at the score, however, it is not easy to follow the counterpoint since its individual lines are shared between instruments; this includes individual notes themselves which can be split between several instruments. This builds on a technique with which I began experimenting in 2015 (context in ‘tessitura a tratteggio and kreng’).
The technique essentially requires the orchestra to perform as if they are all chamber musicians: every note must be taken and given, and is part of a structure which if ignored will mean the music simply won’t make sense, a bit like emphasising the wrong word in a sentence. For ease of rehearsal these relations between notes are sometimes indicated in individual parts.
In the second half of Encore this “chamber music” is orchestrated but in such a way that the “original” counterpoint is no longer strictly present: an A in the violin could become, for instance, an A an octave below in the bass clarinet, coloured by a very low A♭ in the bass and a harmonic high above. This “colouring”, too, is subjected to the same “tratteggio” technique. Successful performance conveys the character and expressions of the counterpoint without actually sounding it. In this sense the piece must encore itself for its encore relies on the sense of its earlier counterpoint, and so the sense of the later expression is a kind of memory—an encore, a reflection. The musicians must therefore listen in a different way, and respond differently to the notation, remembering its gestures, whose visual, notational aesthetic is similar to that of the Second Viennese School but built upon fundamentally different structures of listening.
In spite of the technique and structure of Encore, an A is sustained throughout the entire piece. I think this is obvious but so far no one—including the conductor of its premiere—has noticed.
Click the icon below to access a recording (this will open a new tab).
Click the icon below to view the score (this will open a PDF in a new tab).
View an example part below (bassoons).
Encore 2 is a recomposition of Encore for chamber ensemble. The parts are busier and a greater variety of instrumental techniques are drawn on to colour the work, as well as incorporating some soloistic lines such as written for the cello in bar 22 and the bass clarinet in bar 25. Strictly speaking I do not intend this as part of the PhD submission but a recording and score is provided for reference.
Score (Cambridge: 2021).