Nightfires is written in one continuous movement which lasts around ten minutes. Titles are usually amongst the last decisions I make as part of my writing process, so unusually for me, I decided on Nightfires as the title for the work long before the musical material existed (even in sketch form). The work is designed to be a hard-hitting, energised concert-opener. There was little intention to write programmatic music, but more to use the title as a catalyst for the piece (I often utilise “quietly evocative” titles as a “way in” for listeners). This created a deliberately ambiguous and abstract canvas in which I have been able to draw on my own interpretation of the dark, brooding, ominous imagery conjured in my mind by Nightfires.

 

The work is for the most part an elongated, baleful melody which is continuously shadowed and shrouded by a highly energised, often angular, musical landscape. Shrill winds and unrelenting brass ostinatos underpin lopsided grooves and loops which eventually fall away to reveal a solo cello. Its frantic, breathless material is quickly subsumed and damaged by the return of the noisy, acrid brass and pungent, bitter strings.

 

The work has one brief moment of hiatus with cleansing, restrained string chords. All-too-quickly, these chords are smothered, and the work is hurled towards the climax where shrieking trumpets reprise their opening fanfares before propelling towards the work's end.

"I'd dare to suggest that Nightfires, with its incredible seismic heaving, is among the most exciting pieces I've heard from a Scottish composer in the last 25 years; since Isobel Gowdie, in fact."

Michael Tumelty, the Herald

"...a solo cello elbows its way out of shrieking trumpets and swaggering double basses to play a frenzied elegy. It’s bold orchestral writing, confident enough to use the brightest of colours and the chunkiest of rhythms. I’d like to hear more."

Kate Molleson, the Guardian

"A ten-minute work packed with incessant youthful energy, it is, however, remarkable for the confidence and character of its orchestration, and a golden thread of a melody that weaves its way artfully through the surface excitement."

Ken Walton, the Scotsman

To the Light is, in its most basic of forms, a movement from darkness to light which surges through an arch-form structure. The music exists as one continuous movement, but can be divided into three distinct sections: a quiet, restrained opening within which a baleful, wistful solo cello wails above dark string chords; a potent, insistent middle where the brass vie for supremacy against the strings; and a return to the yearning material found in the opening, but only this time the music has in many ways been distilled, or damaged, by the energised middle section that preceded it. 

 

The descending trio of chords heard at the opening of To the Light underpin the entire body of harmonic material found within the piece. This harmonic sound-world, which infects the whole work, was created by utilising rotations and extensions of these chords. These various iterations also led to the construction of the melodic material, which is dominated by minor sixths and thirds. The energised middle section is essentially a collage of musical moments which are hung together by these chordal progressions and melodic ideas. These series of moments lead breathlessly to the climax of the piece: a cleansing arrival into Db minor which quickly dissipates. 

 

To the Light was commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with funding from the PRS for Music Foundation, Cruden Foundation, and RVW Trust. It is dedicated to my grandfather, Alexander Scott, who died in 2016. 

"Harrold’s writing is precise and clean-textured, yet he imbues the work with a dazzling warmth and emotive density."

Ken Walton, The Scotsman

"To the Light may turn out to be a very significant piece in spreading his reputation. Responding with discipline to the chamber orchestra challenge, he has produced a work that makes maximum use of the more limited instrumental palette"

Ken Bruce, The Herald

"The strong, angular central section seemed to lay bare something dark in the soul. The agonised climax brought a return to the opening that brought no reassurance but some hope of resolution in the final, unsettled major passage"

Seen and Heard International

Raze is written in one continuous movement which lasts around five minutes, and was commissioned by the BBC Proms to showcase the Proms Youth Ensemble at the Last Night of the Proms. Titles are almost consistently the final decisions I make as part of the writing process, so it was highly unusual for me to decide on Raze as the title before the piece had even been sketched. I rarely intend to write programmatic music, but in this instance I use the title as a 'way in' to the work. Raze means ‘clear the way’, ‘overthrow’, and ‘knock down’ - exactly the impact Raze is designed to have at a noisy, carnival-like concert such as the Last Night of the Proms.

 

The piece is a collage of angular, brash musical moments which are linked through a series of repeating intervals and melodic motifs, all of which are underpinned by swaggering, brooding bass-lines. The work is characterised by sour, baleful strings, blaring brass, and cacophonous, raucous winds which ‘raise’, soar, and hurtle towards the climax. 

 

Raze is dedicated to the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Proms Youth Ensemble, and Sakari Oramo.

© 2019 TOM HARROLD tom@tomharrold.net

 

MAIN PHOTOS CREDIT RICHARD ION / MATT EACHUS