VIDEO — Incandenza Variations

23 July 2019

Earlier this year I was commissioned by the K3A Orchestra to compose a new orchestral work. The resulting piece, Incandenza Variations, was premiered last month in Kingston.

Below is a video of some highlights of the piece. It was a real thrill having the chance to compose for and work with a full orchestra, something I hope to do more often in the future. Thanks to Mark Jarman at Nonesuche Media for filming the concert. If you’d like to read more about my inspiration behind the piece, scroll down.

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Programme notes for Incandenza Variations

When the chance of composing a new piece for the K3A Orchestra arose, my mind immediately went to a novel I had read one year previously: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. This sprawling tome, populated by a diverse and troubled cast of characters, had struck me as somehow orchestral, as symphonic in its scope and audacity. But how to transmute Foster Wallace’s one-of-a-kind novel into music? The answer came from a perhaps unlikely source: Elgar. I’d always admired his wonderful structural idea employed in the Enigma Variations, that of composing variations on a theme, with each variation being a sketch, or musical cryptogram, of someone important in his life. I opted to borrow—or steal if you prefer—this excellent blueprint.

The figures I would honour with a variation would not come from my life, but instead from Infinite Jest; specifically, the five members of the Incandenza family who form the palpitating heart of the novel. The main theme would represent David Foster Wallace himself. I have hidden various ‘dark sayings’ (to use Elgar’s phrase) within the piece, in tribute to the author and his incandescent characters.

I am hugely grateful to the K3A Orchestra for the commission and I hope that, in paying homage to Infinite Jest, something of Foster Wallace’s artful magic may have rubbed off onto my music.