Stone Study no.2 – Cave and Cliff takes the form of a ‘theme and variations’. The theme consists of a chaconne-like harmonic progression which contains only a few fragments of melodic material; the seven dovetailed variations then take a more harmonic than melodic approach accordingly, often alternating between interior and exterior spaces.
When writing I often had an image in mind. I imagined slowly moving through dimly lit underground networks, narrow passageways or vast caverns; watching the shadows and the light move fluidly over the uneven surface of the rock as veins of minerals or other typical karstic features are illuminated. A contrasting sense of ascending or standing on the edge of a high cliff or escarpment suggested a more open-air character, and as I switched between these contrasting moods I felt things gradually beginning to blur; height meeting depth or past touching present.
In this context I was also heavily influenced by much of Alan Garner’s work (a conspicuous influence on all four Stone Studies), as well as by prehistoric cave paintings such as those discovered in the Chauvet Cave in southern France (featured in Werner Herzog’s 2010 film Cave of Forgotten Dreams).
My approach to the variations was also guided by ideas of geological processes, where process and harmonic movement often take precedence over melodic invention or capriciousness. This gives the piece a kind of primordial or elemental feeling, but also a mechanical moto perpetuo edge at times.
Score available here
Stone Study no.2 – Cave and Cliff is due to be premiered on the evening of 7th September 2018 at the Lion Ballroom, Leominster in a concert of works by other Herefordshire composers.