Frenzy is an 18-minute orchestra work that passes through the various figurative states of the term as defined in the OED: "agitation or disorder of the mind, likened to madness; a state of delirious fury, enthusiasm; a wild folly, distraction, a crazy notion, a mania for something." For me, "frenzy" sums up the feeling, at times overwhelming, of contemplating the current world around us, especially as it is imagined in our daily doses of digital news and information, much of which we consume without regard to its subversive and subconscious influence on our mood.
One of the "crazy notions" for me (and something as old as Haydn but new to my work) is a mania for the development of unique melodic ideas, a technique for which the Germans have two vivid terms: Fortspinnung and Durchführung. Starting with a brief quote from a moment in my most recent opera, Antony and Cleopatra, I take the motivic material through an extended hall of mirrors, transforming it, twisting it, turning it, reshaping it, remodeling it. Sometimes the tiniest of rhythmic motives take over, frenetically dominating the foreground and then receding, giving way to contrasting ideas.
Formally, Frenzy is also a kind of "short symphony," encompassing in a relatively brief duration a variegated yet unified symphonic structure.
And, despite the title, the piece is not without moments of tranquility and good humor, which I believe befits the work's dedication to my longtime friend Simon Rattle, an incomparable musician, a deeply compassionate human and, as ever, an enthusiastic interpreter of my music.