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Bone Palace Ballet

Bone Palace Ballet (2014) was my first orchestral composition, written for the London Symphony Orchestra through the LSO Discovery Panufnik Composers Scheme, supported by the Helen Hamelyn Trust. The LSO has since recorded a revised version of the piece for release on its LSO Live label in 2020. (The above recording is from a rehearsal of the original version.)

Programme note:
From personal diaries and home videos to sculptures and symphonies, much of today's human activity seems aimed at channelling our experiences as individuals into documented forms. Even the primal instinct to procreate could be regarded as an expression of the even deeper desire to make a mark on our world, to leave behind a living legacy that will carry our DNA forward into the next generation.

The paradox here is all too clear: however hard we try to catalogue and preserve details of our lives "for posterity", we all know that our legacies (be they physical objects, ideas or whatever) will sooner or later fade into the oblivion of time. Some of these legacies might well outlive their creators (Newton, Beethoven or Buddha, for example) but none will last forever. We all know this, and yet not only do we continue to create and to document our creations, but we are forever seeking novel ways to record our experiences: cave paintings, written language, print, photography, audio recording, weblogs, online profiles etc.

Whom are these records for? Is the act of creating/documenting a gratifying experience in itself, or are we more concerned with telling others something about ourselves? And if the latter is true, then who are these "others"? Our friends? Contemporaries? Or future generations?

These are some of the questions I asked myself during the composition of Bone Palace Ballet, the title of which is borrowed from an eponymous poem by Charles Bukowski which seems to me to muse on similar issues, seeking to make sense of “this dusty dream”. In the piece I also allude to one of the earliest recordings of music known to exist, a performance of Handel's oratorio Israel in Egypt, featuring an orchestra of some 500 musicians and a 4,000-strong choir, captured on wax cylinder inside Crystal Palace in 1888.

Alex with Christian Mason and Colin Matthews at a workshop performance of Bone Palace Ballet

The Charm Of Impossibilities

Written for and performed by Chaos Orchestra and taken from the group's debut album Island Mentality, this piece was shortlisted for BASCA British Composer Award.