rat race

for solo bass guitar (or double bass), flute, clarinet, viola and cello
March – June 2014; 8′

Premiere: Late Music Ensemble, Late Music Concert Series, 5th July 2014

Commissioned by the Late Music Concert Series.

A musical game for 5 players. All the material in this piece is derived from turning the height elevation of the three stages of the 2014 Tour de France into musical pitch contours.

Rat race is in three continuous stages, nicknamed: freewheeling, uphill struggle, and revolutions. The piece as a whole is a structured improvisation that was devised with the players, who read off an individual pitch contour and a collective score wheel mapping the structure (in sections labelled York, Harrogate, Hebden Bridge…).

The winds and strings are in teams.

The bass guitar coaches the strings, who aim to make lyrical sense of the pitch contours together. Though it starts well, rivalry causes them to lose focus and get stuck.

The winds don’t have a coach, as they have trained to treat the contour exactly as chromatic scales tracing the peaks and troughs. They eventually get penalised for an increasingly erratic performance.

Whether there is a clear winner is up to you.