In Search of Strategy

'In Search of Strategy' was written for the City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra as part of the Adopt a Composer Scheme, where I was able to attend rehearsals, and try out ideas with the orchestra over the course of the year. The culmination of the process was then a BBC Radio 3 broadcast, and the piece has recently been nominated for a British Composer Award 2015

Split into six continuous movements, this dramatic piece contrasts moments of tranquility with cacophony, freedom with oppression, and organisation with chaos! Taking inspiration from Sun Tzu's ancient manual on strategy, 'The Art of War', I started to imagine the orchestra as a sort of army trying to follow Sun Tzu's sage advice, e.g. ‘Ultimate excellence lies…in defeating the enemy without ever fighting’, but falling into a maelstrom or chaos and mutiny at every turn.  

Sun Tzu's 'five fundamentals' of 'The Way', 'Heaven', 'Earth', 'Command' and ‘Discipline' became important musical characters in the piece and loosely form five of the six main sections. After battling not only within themselves, but also with the 'offstage' orchestra, the piece reaches an ethereal, transcendent epilogue with the music rising ever higher and higher.

To add an extra dimension to this piece, I was able to work with the CCSO's Artist in Residence,
Lesley Fotherby, whose artwork is going to be projected above the orchestra during the performance. Lesley has been busy creating abstract watercolour sketches based on early rehearsals of the music, which in turn have been up on my wall as inspiration while completing the piece.
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Full orchestra
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Commissioned by Adopt a Composer (Making Music, PRS, Sound and Music)
Year 2014
Length 14'
- City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra
West Road Concert Hall (Cambridge)
November 2014
Broadcast on BBC Radio 3
Nominated for British Composer Award 2015


BBC Radio 3 Interview