Museum of the Air

Length / year

22' - 1997


mezzo/large orchestra

Performance history

First Performance
St David's Hall, Cardiff
30th March 1998
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Grant Llewelyn - cond.
Della Jones - mezzo

First Broadcast Performance
BBC Radio 3
20th January 1999
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Grant Llewelyn - cond.
Della Jones - mezzo

Programme note

to poems by Gwyneth Lewis

* The Museum Curator Greets the Dawn

* History Lesson

* Website Future

* Communications

* On Duty

* Night Galleries


The commission by FIET to write a work for a special concert as part of their European conference in Cardiff was an exciting one. I was immediately drawn to the subtle, witty and warm-hearted poetry of Gwyneth Lewis, also specially commissioned for the occasion; poetry which touches on many aspects of Wales - past, present and future. Both the public and the private have their place in these poems and, given that there was a single soloist performing with the orchestra, an early decision was to link the themes through a single character. Gwyneth has drawn that character sympathetically and without pretence. Through her eyes, within a relatively short time span, we encounter a range of ideas and feelings.

As the poems are linked through this character I decided to mirror this in the music by writing a 'symphonic' cycle. The musical structure is strong. As in much of my recent work the harmony is very simple and modal, in effect unchanging, above a simple stepwise sequence of four bass notes. From this minimalist foundation I have developed varied and complex textures in predominantly fast and lively music. Given this structure I have not been shy of painting musical pictures at times nor of emphasising the warm, romantic (not sentimental) side of the character - a feature, I believe, of the Welsh character. The vocal lines, too, reflect our natural love of song.

I am truly grateful to the members of FIET for their imaginative and generous support of new work in commissioning 'Museum of the Air' for their special occasion. Contemporary artists cannot assume that their work will communicate to contemporary audiences but I, like many, very much wish that it will. I enjoyed writing it and I hope you will enjoy listening to it.