This music comprises three pairs of highly contrasted miniatures; I have separated each movement from its ‘companion’ in order to explore possible relationships between the different pairs (in spite of the stark contrasts between them) and to fracture the natural continuity of the music.
The outer pieces are a sustained chorale, plaintive and largely undecorated.
The second and fourth Nocturnes are a small tribute to Elliott Carter who had died while I was at work on this commission. Whilst some elements of the pieces remain constant (the quick notes in the viola part, for example) others effect a gradual rallentando through a series of metric modulations. In the second Nocturne the viola outlasts the piano and her music flowers into melody whereas in the fourth the final outcomes are reversed.
The third and fifth Nocturnes are based on a song which I composed in 2010 to words by Daniela Nunnari: The day the clocks went back, the autumn sky bled grey… The third Nocturne is virtually a transcription of that song whilst number five subjects the melody of the song to a process of fragmentation, redistributing its phrases over soft, bell-like sounds in the piano.
The Six Downie Nocturnes are dedicated to the memory of Martin Downie, ceramic artist and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at York St John University, who died in November 2012.
The Nocturnes were first performed in May 2013 by Rosalind Ventris and Lara Dodds-Eden.