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This is one of a series of compositions taking as a starting-point the miraculous poetry of Sarah Day, a Tasmanian born in Lancashire, who shares Gilbert’s interest in natural phenomena such as  the play of light, the sound of birds and time-cycles.  So the title is the last line of a poem written in 1990, celebrating the possibility of perceiving cyclic order in what would otherwise be a kind of natural chaos.

The piece itself applies this concept to two opposing musical ideas:  a long chorus of blurred woodwind harmonies in distinctly unstable rhythm, rather like bird-calls in their structure;  and a slowly-emerging chorale-like tune in the horns.  The woodwind chorus comes round again, and then again.  Each time, through the influence of the horns and trumpets, it is rhythmically a little more stable and its harmonies clearer.  But there is a price to pay, for as the latter’s own melodic material emerges, it is clear that it needs to go faster, and at the mid-point it does.  So the round-dance gets madder, and though the opposition between woodwind and brass is never really resolved, it becomes clear that both groups are in fact playing the same tune, and probably have been all along.

The scoring is for triple woodwind, four horns and two trumpets, and the duration about seven minutes.  “...into the Gyre”  was commissioned by the Hallé Concerts Society as one of a series of short works focusing on different instrumental groups in this fine orchestra.  Its first performance, in February 1995, was directed by Ole Schmidt.  In 2001 a second movement was added, which creates the 'madder dance' itself, the first movement having the drive of a long, unresolved anacrusis.  This second movement is a tribute to conductor and champion of the new, Clark Rundell.

The first movement is recorded on NMC D105.


14 minutes

Hallé Orchestra wind, dir. Ole Schmidt, Free Trade Hall, Manchester, 23rd February 1995

1 Flute, 2 Flute (=piccolo), 2 Oboe, 1 Oboe (=Cor anglais), 2 B-flat Clarinet, 1 B-flat Clarinet (=Bass Clarinet in B-flat), 2 Bassoon, 1 Bassoon (=Contrabassoon), 4 Horn in F, 2 Trumpet in C
Composition date


20 January 2011

Great Hall, Blackheath Halls, Blackheath

Trinity Laban Ensemble, cond. Michael Collins