Ariel is scored for basset clarinet, violin, cello and piano, and is a response to the poem of the same name by Sylvia Plath. I reacted to the poem musically, jotting down the ideas for instrumental combinations, as well as the emotional content as I read the words. The piece begins, (‘Stasis in darkness…’) and gradually wakens up to a furious outburst in all the instruments. Scales descend to the depths of the instruments’ ranges, out of which a slow, winding duet for basset clarinet and cello leads to the centre of the work – a slow, calm three-chord chorale. The work then comes to a stand-still where short outbursts are gradually transformed into new, faster material. The three-chord chorale motif then goes through a number of permutations until a recap of the opening’s outburst is quickly sidelined by a boldly expressive return of the chorale motif. This piece is about extremes – extremes of expression, of instrumental textures and capabilities.
Ariel is dedicated to the Mercury Quartet.
© Mark Simpson, 2016