(2010) – Ob/Cor A, Hrn, CBsn, Hrp, Vln, Vc
This piece is a response to the poem of the same name by Edward Thomas. After I had made a number of unsuccessful attempts to set the poem vocally, I eventually settled on the idea of writing a purely instrumental response to the text.
In the poem Thomas describes the memory of a distant and unfamiliar three-note birdcall, which grows to represent a combination of characteristically subtle and personal themes, least of all a sense of hindsight mixed with self-doubt, famously captured in Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken.
Harmonic and melodic material derives strictly from the three notes: C, D-sharp and E, where the form and overall mood of the piece is very much guided by the poem. After a workshop performance with BCMG in 2009 at Birmingham Conservatoire conducted by Edwin Roxburgh, I made a number of revisions and completed the final version the following year.
This extract from the poem serves well to describing the general character of the music:
… Sad more than joyful it was, if I must say
That it was one or other, but if sad
‘Twas sad only with joy too, too far off
For me to taste it …
The Unknown Bird was first performed by students from The Royal Academy of Music, in the David Josefovitz Recital Hall at the RAM, November 2011, conducted by the composer.