On Harrowdown Hill

On Harrowdown Hill

This is my entry for the ENO’s mini opera competition (see http://www.minioperas.org/the-soundtrack-competition/) , it is a soundtrack composed for the script ‘On Harrowdown Hill’ by Shaun Gardiner, based on the story ‘Death of a Government Inspector’. I chose this particular one because I loved the poetry of the script, and the way that it captured the sense of loneliness of a man driven to take his own life. It is of course based on the death of Dr David Kelly, a story which makes a terrific choice of subject for a modern opera.

My score was written in a great hurry (I only found out about the competition a week ago), so has many flaws. However I think there are advantages to writing quickly, you just have to go with your imagination, there just isn’t time for self-censorship. I deliberately chose are very spare instrumentation, the main instruments are the viola (which represents the inspector), piano, choir, bassoon, three horns and percussion. Although it is computer generated I think it could be played live (with the addition of a few electronic noises). I have used some subtle long delays on the piano and viola to give a dream or nightmarish ambient background. The sounds at the beginning are actually a recording of bird song slowed down.

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