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Arborescent (2022)


For string quartet


First performance by the Consone Quartet at All Saints' Church, Boughton Aluph, June 24 2023 and subsequently broadcast on Radio 3.

Winner of the National Centre for Early Music Award 2022

Duration: 5 minutes

The notion of arborescence was introduced through reading Amanda Gorman’s poetry collection, Call Us What We Carry (2022). In a triptych of poems entitled Arborescent I, II & III, she uses the sprouting of a tree as a metaphor for humanity: repressed secrets, hidden like roots; distortion from grief and trauma, like a tree warped by winter winds; an inherent desire to ‘twist forward all that shoots us through with sun,’ towards hope and light.


The basis of the music in Arborescent is the notional structure of a tree. The piece is arborescent in terms of its structure and texture, starting from a place of simplicity and homorhythm; gradually sprouting branches and leaves, as its gestures become more variegated and knotted. It is also arborescent in the way that the sounds and techniques evolve throughout. A highly resonant, lyrical outset – idiomatic of period string instruments – branches slowly into the resonances of natural and, ultimately, artificial harmonics, typical of more modern string writing. In this way, the music can also be said to branch from the past to the present.


Whilst listening you may imagine exploring a tree; your line of sight moving from the base, to the progressively more verdant branches. Increasing life, vibrancy, and light through vertical ascent.

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