phôsphors (…of ether)
phôsphors (… of ether) comprises three instrumental islands, which do not know of each other’s existence. These islands have been designed with particular registral, harmonic, and timbral characteristics, behavioural qualities, and temporalities that are unique to each island.
The first island, formed by the violins, lies at the high register of the piece, and I refer to it in the score as similar to the movement of “flickering, metallic particles”. Between the first and second violins, there are eight layers of material that disperse to create a type of zigzag motion, like a constellation of moving stars.
The second island, comprising violas and cellos, is characterised by an interlacing movement, like strands of material moving backward and forward, slowly interlacing and parting.
The third island is the low underworld of the piece, formed by trombones, tuba and double basses, and engages in a type of cyclical weathering.
A fourth composite of timpani, percussion, and harp act not so much as an island but as a mobile force, a sonic antennae that can branch its ears and handles outward to all three islands, moving between them, carrying sonic colours, energies, and matter amongst them. This floating island begins in a resonant haze (… of ether) and builds over time, like an engine that gradually calls on more and more of its powers, slowly introducing the french horns into its texture, and later the oboes and bassoons. These instrumental extensions cut, collect, and carry, until a type of communicative code or language is formed. This code brings the flutes, clarinets, and trumpets (phôsphors) to life, allowing them to infiltrate and illuminate each of the three islands with this code, creating one huge space of undulating light.
Listen to an excerpt from the piece, performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gavin Maloney:
Listen to a recording of the piece, performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ilan Volkov: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06vndr7
Look at an excerpt from the score: phos_extract