violin, viola, cello and piano
Commissioned by the University of Queensland to mark its centenary
First performance by Elizabeth Sellars, violin, Patricia Pollett, viola, Patrick Murphy, cello and Liam Viney, piano, Customs House, Brisbane, 10 December 2010
Andrew Ford: The Scattering of Light (2010)
for violin, viola, cello and piano
The Scattering of Light was commissioned by the University of Queensland to mark its centenary, and so I tried to find a title and rationale for the piece that would link it to the anniversary and celebrate what all the best universities do: namely, send their learning out into the world. The metaphor of light came early and seemed especially appropriate for a university with its main campus in the Brisbane suburb of St Lucia, but I chanced on the actual title in Ian McEwan’s novel, Solar.
There are various musical analogies for teaching and learning in the piece, none of which, I hope, is necessary for an understanding or appreciation of the music. These include the way in which different instruments take it in turns to lead the ensemble, while the others challenge, modify or expand on the musical propositions. In the last few minutes of the piece, the music becomes rather simple with a transparent texture, and I would like to think it gives off its own light. Here the ‘leading’ instrument is the piano, its simple, ‘reasonable’ line consisting mainly of a gently repeated B flat. Then in the final seconds of the piece, all four instruments suddenly go their individual ways, scattering their music as they go.