High Force

for piano solo, 1988.

Score (scan of hard copy – 24 MB download)

The piece was originally written for pianist (and physicist) Steven Neugarten, who said ‘why not write a piece about turbulence?’ and got my particular interpretation of the idea, a virtuoso piece that proceeds from bottom to top of the piano, becoming more and more complex, with a structure based on a quite rigorous use of Fibonacci principles. The piece was first performed by Steven as a finalist in the British Contemporary Piano Competition. This recording is from Philip Mead, who set up the same competition.

High Force is a waterfall in County Durham, surrounded by impressive pine trees and dark rock walls that have an almost cathedral-like presence. The water falls headlong for about 70 feet, landing in a surging pool, coloured by the surrounding peat and granite. Watching it, I was mesmerised by the great mass of water which seems at once changeless and constantly changing. After staring for a while the granite and the water seem to merge as one. In this piece I sought to capture that feeling of relentlessness and turbulent motion, and the erosion of one, apparently unyielding, element by another, more fluid idea.

Recorded by Philip Mead on Transparent things.

Thescore was computer set by Barnes Music Engraving, to use as an example of their work. I remain extremely grateful to this day that they were so kind as to do this for one penniless young-ish composer. But the amazing quality of their work is its own recommendation.