A note from the composer...
Rhythm of Light is a suite of four movements celebrating the life and work of sculptor Barbara Hepworth which can be performed together, separately or with different pairings, unified by thematic material. The movement titles are based on some of the sculptor’s quotations which discuss her influences and artistic approaches; these helped shape my creative concepts and musical perspectives. The title itself is inspired by her many mentions of both rhythm and light. Within the music there are references to her wide scope of interests such as form, texture and dance; I was also influenced by her sculpture Three Obliques (Walk In) (1968), situated outside Cardiff University School of Music and which formed a background to my studies as an undergraduate and PhD student, and later as an associate lecturer.
I had hoped to visit The Hepworth Wakefield and also the Barbara Hepworth Museum at St Ives to get more of an understanding of her work and surroundings. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic this was not possible and I was grateful to be given a remote guided tour around The Hepworth Wakefield; this was helpful in getting a sense both of the museum logistics where the first performance would take place and a closer look at her work in situ.
The first movement, Landscape, sets the scene and reflects on how memories of her Yorkshire journeys as a child remained with her throughout her life. The music ebbs and flows with the hills and roads before slowing slightly to reach the crest of the hill (the only tempo change), then returning to the constant patter of the engine.
The second movement, Shadow cast by the sun, is reflective – the sculptor working and creating on her own but not alone (like writing music); there is a sense of isolation before sharing the work with others, perhaps particularly poignant in the context of the 2020 pandemic.
Pavan and Galliard represents to me some of the enduring and iconic shapes of Barbara Hepworth’s work, with the title also bringing to mind direct musical representations of form. This is a modern interpretation of the pavan and galliard but with similar stylistic elements such as repetitions and time signatures. My virtual tour of The Hepworth Wakefield drew my eye to three ‘Pavan’ sculptures (including prototypes) and some time was spent focusing on these so that I could see them close up. The music can also be performed antiphonally and/or spatially, featuring smaller groups from the band.
Rhythm and dance and everything is a celebration of Barbara Hepworth’s life and work, also of musicians being able to play live music again after the pandemic. There are elements of ‘swimming’, ‘air’ and ‘sea’ (mentioned in the title quotation) which have their own specific sections, the whole often drawing from previous movements and coming together in a joyful finale.
This final movement incorporates rhythms of Barbara Hepworth working on a sculpture, taken from the British Film Institute film Barbara Hepworth – Figures in a Landscape (1953) https://youtu.be/Qt9zRz-Jguc?t=237. It also includes a rhythmic representation of her speech, heard in the timpani towards the end (Fig. K), from the British Pathé film Barbara Hepworth Sculptress (1972) https://youtu.be/2qLDOcUlEhE?t=67: “I think every sculpture must be touched… well it’s part of the way you make it, and that our first—really our first—sensibility is the sense of feeling, the very first one we have when we are born. I think every person looking at a sculpture should use his own body; you can’t look at sculpture if you’re going to stand, stiff as a ramrod and stare at it. With a sculpture you must walk around it, bend towards it, touch it, walk away from it.”
Liz Lane, April 2021