Daedalus in Flight is written in one continually fast movement lasting a little over ten minutes. In the well-known myth Daedalus ingeniously fashioned wings with which he and his son Icarus could escape Minos of Crete; only Daedalus survived as Icarus flew too close to the sun, the feathers melted off his wings and plunged him into the sea. There is no intention in my work to write programmatic music, however, and I avoid retelling the myth, indeed, purposely ignoring much of it. I had been attracted to Daedalus’s story in earlier work and it provides a similar abstract frame for my third String Quartet, Flight from the Labyrinth. Both works are preoccupied with ideas of escape, aerial flight and reflection. Daedalus in Flight is further dominated by an idealised notion of gliding, replete with exhilaration, turbulence, abandon and freedom.
Virtuosity, particularly that related to innate idiomatic instrumental qualities, imbues much of my music and this work is no exception. My approach to orchestration exploits acute timbral contrast but is also concerned with the blending of sounds across instrumental groups. From the outset rapid thematic ideas dart between winds, strings, brass and, later, tuned percussion. A slower melodic line frequently emerges through the texture, ornamented by changes of timbre, density and even intonation, latterly through the use of ‘out of tune’ horn harmonics that feature prominently.
I am fascinated by musical attacks and resulting resonances, driving much of my music; this is apparent in the work’s opening where a simple (and for this work, elemental) perfect fifth punctuated in brass mutates into a variety of textures as it dissolves into wind, brass and strings. The music is characterised throughout by similar extreme contrasts of register and dynamics often pitting abrasive sonorities (e.g. snap pizzicatos combined with whip) against more becalmed, ethereal ones (flute harmonics and harp tremolo). The resulting orchestral sweeps and plunges combined with sudden dynamic shifts are conscious attempts to evoke the emotions of a fantastical aerial journey. While much of this is manifested in extrovertly soaring gestures, a great deal of the music, while still quick, is delicately intimate with textures frequently bubbling away at the precipice of audibility.
Structurally the work hurtles towards its close, signalled by accelerating chord sequences and rapid kaleidoscopic shifts in colour. I would like the listener to feel at the very end that this imaginary flight has not been abruptly halted but rather that it continues onwards, the last eruptive gesture shooting musical sparks into the ether.
David Horne, 2014
"Horne creates a dazzling image of Daedalus on his wings of wax and feathers putting the planet into perspective – a bit like Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream putting a girdle round the Earth in 40 minutes, and Mendelssohn’s wondrously aerial incidental music came to mind. But somehow Horne, in his elaborately conceived, postmodernist scherzo, manages to convey lightness, escape and infinite possibility, while still wielding a hugely complex orchestral apparatus, with tremendous bangs and climaxes."