Sudden Light

Mark Bowden (1979)

Sudden Light 2005

3333 - 4331 - timp.perc(4) - 2 harps - piano.celeste - strings
Duration 
17
Genre 
Commissioner 
BBC and spnm
Publisher 

Sudden Light was inspired by Marcus du Sautoy’s book The Music of the Primes in which he describes prime numbers as being like “jewels studded throughout the vast expanse of the universe – timeless numbers that exist in some world independent of our physical reality. Their importance to mathematics comes from their power to build all other numbers… Yet despite their apparent simplicity and fundamental character, prime numbers remain the most mysterious objects in the universe for it is impossible to predict when the next prime number will appear.” In the harmonic series the prime numbered partials create the octave, the fifth and the third above the fundamental pitch – the building blocks of diatonic harmony. But they also create microtonal overtones that create shimmering dissonances when illuminated against a fundamental pitch. In Sudden Light I explore the overtone series as a basis for a large-scale harmonic structure exploiting the diametric nature of consonance and dissonance. Sequences of prime numbers abound in the construction of the rhythms, the form and surface musical detail. The title for the piece comes from Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poem of the same name, which explores opposing notions of certainty and ambiguity.

MB

Performances 
1.4.05 BBC Maida Vale Studios, London: BBC Symphony Orchestra / Jac van Steen
3
Flute
3rd piccolo
3
Oboe
3rd cor anglais
3
Clarinet
1st and 2nd doubling Eb clarinet, 3rd doubling bass clarinet
3
Bassoon
3rd contrabassoon
4
Horn
3
Trumpet
3
Trombone
3rd bass trombone
1
Tuba
1
Timpani
4
Percussion
vibraphone, xylophone, snare drum, bongos, whip, marimba, tubular bells, lion's roar, tom-tom, tam-tam, sizzle cymbal, 3 woodblocks, glockenspiel, template blocks, suspended cymbals
16
Violin
14
Violin II
12
Viola
10
Cello
8
Double bass
2
Harp
2
Piano
piano and celeste
(Esc)