The Eleventh Hour
This post has missed the '11th hour of the 11th day', but it feels fitting to talk about my major work reflecting on the end of the First World War. Here's the link to the first of 5 movements of The Eleventh Hour For anyone interested in some detail about the structure and intent of the work, please read on. Thank you, Paul The Eleventh Hour Paul Cutlan I. Prelude II. Portent III. Intransigence IV. Conflict V. Desolation The Eleventh Hour was written during the centenary of the end of the First World War, as a personal, philosophical reflection on human-kind's predilection to fall into patterns of war and destruction. Prelude is slow chorale, suggesting a cross between a prayer or plea for peace and a sorrowful acknowledgement of the fallibility of human nature. Ominous fanfares interrupt, heralding the next movement. Portent and Intransigence paint a picture of the mounting inevitability of war: The former is a largely improvised argument between the bass clarinet and double bass, while the latter batters home the same message repeatedly with no possibility of compromise or settlement. Conflict is the most clearly programatic movement, with distinct episodes evoking different scenarios of war. It progresses from the disciplined energy of armies marching willingly against each other, through to the reality of chaos and destruction. The horrors of hand to hand combat, trench warfare, stalemate and mustard gas can be imagined in later episodes. Conflict ends with a fragment of the 1914 Christmas truce Silent Night on high cello harmonics, against the double bass intoning The Last Post, also in high harmonics. Desolation follows a long journey of suffering, enervation and human frailty, before finding its way back to the original Prelude prayer. This theme searches for resolution, before dropping a semitone to the final chords, which symbolise a final ‘rest in peace’. Musically, The Eleventh Hour invests two intervals with specific symbolic meanings: The minor sixth represents human passion in many forms, while the minor third (or the octave displaced tenth) is a sign of aggression and conflict. Passion in this context concerns everything from reverence, love, duty and honour, through to courage, patriotism, tenacity and all the way to hate and desperation. These intervals are built up (along with perfect fifths) into polytonal blocks, which are used melodically and harmonically. This not only distorts the original character of these intervals, but helps convey some of the more extreme and desperate expressions of passion. In terms of writing for the group, I approached the problem of coordinating potentially complex counterpoint by using sections of unbarred music with no meter, or by combining these with some elements which remain in tempo. I also devised three ensemble indications: UR means unison rhythm - to be played exactly together CR means cluster rhythm - not together but as a swarm, with very close attacks IR means independent rhythm - play these figures in your own time. A few sections rely heavily on the improvisational prowess of the whole group to realise some visceral and chilling moments in the score.