Commissioned by Dark Inventions for their Firewheel project, part of the Sound and Music ‘Composer Curator Scheme’. Premiered by Dark Inventions at The Engine House, Manchester, Thursday 8th May 2014.
‘Uhtceare’ is an Old English word meaning ‘anxiety before dawn’ – surely a familiar experience to many, not just the Anglo-Saxons. I particularly associate it with the half-awake, early-morning asthma attacks that I had as a child. The piece starts in a nocturnal, dreamlike state with chords that pulse gently, like the rise and fall of breaths. These swelling patterns become increasingly fraught, while soloists emerge sporadically, and culminate in a loud, chaotic passage where the percussionist moves from tuned percussion to drums.
Following this, the flute plays agile, ornamental figures that are soon mimicked by the violin and then the vibraphone. These figures are frenetic but harmonically static, so that when all three instruments are playing them simultaneously there is the sense of a whirlwind of activity that paradoxically seems to remain stationary. I thought this was a fitting musical analogue for the insistent circling of anxious early-morning thoughts. A dramatic cello solo interrupts these imitative cycles and leads the ensemble in a cacophonous final crescendo. (Patrick John Jones, 2014)