…des tactiques de lenteur…

for orchestra

Richard Emsley

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for orchestra

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Composer Richard Emsley
Year of Composition 2015
Duration ca.17'

Forces 3fl/picc, 2ob, ob/ca, Bb.Cl, Bb.Cl/Eb.Cl, Bb.Cl/BCl, 3Bsn, 4Hn, 3Tpt, 3Tbn, Tba, Strings (
Categories (all composers)
Catalogue ID ce-re2dtdl1


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My musical concerns have always reflected my fascination with the patterns and complexity of natural flow, whether it be the sight of clouds crossing the sky, internally self-transforming but separately from their global motion, or the sight of birds or fish flocking, or the aural memory of waves rising and breaking on the shore, each wave endlessly distinct from its predecessor.

The simplicity of the piece’s overall structure – it is composed of forty-one separate chords succeeding each other at a regular interval of 21 seconds – presents a foil for the internal complexity of the timbral patterning of each chord, endlessly and unpredictably exchanging pitches between the instruments of orchestra.

Although the procession of chords 21 seconds apart is maintained throughout, the rhythm of these ‘waves’ is subjected to a single process (a ‘tide’) which gradually lengthens and staggers the chords’ timbral components until by the end of the piece multiple overlapping clouds their identity.

At the time of writing the piece I was watching the films of the French film director Robert Bresson, and took my title from one of his accounts of his film-making technique, using slowness as a ‘tactic’ – an unnatural or artificial device rendering each film a ritualistic ‘taking apart’ of the actors’ movements, a device not unlike the manner in which my piece ‘takes apart’ the timbral identity of each of its constituent chords.