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Sudden Light

Sudden Light

(2005) 17’
for orchestra


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


★★★★ ‘its impact is a physical one: the systems Bowden sets up generate climaxes of great power, and his confidence in handling such large orchestral forces is unmistakable’ / Andrew Clements / Guardian
★★★★½ ‘The final work, Sudden Light is the earliest on the disc. A single movement, it opens with an explosion, alternating with elaborate textures. There is a furious energy at times, with a complex structure underpinning it’ / Robert Hugill / Planet Hugill
★★★★ ‘Excellent performances by all involved on the disc do contemporary composer Mark Bowden proud’ / Elinor Cooper / BBC Music Magazine
Sudden Light is the oldest piece and the most bombastic, inspired by Liebniz’s theory on music as “the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting.” BBC NOW under Grant Llewellyn give a robust, swaggering performance’ NMC Collector / Kate Molleson / Gramophone
Music: Home and abroad / Paul Driver / Sunday Times
Sudden Light provided the evening's final big blast / Rian Evans / Guardian

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