Vincent and Avona

Research output: Non-textual formComposition


St. George’s Bristol
Commissioned by New Music Southwest

The central section (‘Granite’), with massive chords, depicts the limestone rock over red sandstone and its upheaval (‘upfold’) that set the stage for the River Avon’s carving through it before the end of the last ice age. I approached this section with the words of musical visionary Edgard Varése in the background, who, in his seminal essay The Liberation of Sound speaks of ‘sound masses’ that ‘collide and intersect with one another.’ The massive sonorites that result from all of this relate handsomely to the giant rivals Vincent and Cadmus.

Because of the famous Camera obscura that sits at the top of the gorge, with its remarkable near-photograph live imaging onto a stone wall at the top of the observatory overlooking the Avon, I also incorporated what to me is the most strikingly obvious characteristic of the camera obscura’s method of reflecting light into a dark room, through a small hole off a mirror in order to produce remarkably detailed images (the technique that led directly to Daguerro types and early photography), which is that the image is upside down.

Ultimately, as with all of my music, Vincent and Avona is concerned with motion. So a progression happens here where we begin in the twilight air, as were, over the Avon (Prelude) then floating down into the gorge (clouds and climbs).

Accordingly, in the work’s central ‘Granite’ section, the ‘obscura’ element begins to kick in: in the movement’s second half both the direction of the chords and the rhythmic process reverse.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputChoral/Orchestral
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2015


  • bristol
  • nmsw
  • ellison
  • avon gorge
  • st. george's
  • granite


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