‘Bran deems it a marvellous beauty
to sail in his little coracle across the clear sea, while to me in my chariot,
it is a flowery plain over which it drives’
(Immram Bran - ‘The Voyage of Bran’, c.8th century A.D., translated from Irish)
This extract, from an early Irish tale about a voyage to a strange yet beautiful ‘otherworld’, provided the imaginative starting point for the piece. ‘Argatnél’ (literally ‘silver cloud’) is a poetic term for this otherworld. The piece is not programmatic. However the text suggested a number of musical ideas, including harmony, and an undulating quality which is expressed both in individual phrases and in the form of longer sections. The opening clarinet solo (which was written as the first response to the text) forms the basis of all subsequent harmonic and melodic material, undergoing a number of transformations in the course of the piece.
Argartnél was written for the London Philharmonic Orchestra, who premiered the work in the Queen Elizabeth hall, London on Monday the 9th of June, 2014.