Urban Antiphon (2002 - for the ballet: Keeping Pace)

Duration 9’30”
For Piano and pre-recorded track with Ian Stuart (alto sax)
Choreographed by Sara Matthews
Lighting Design by Kieron Docherty
First performed as part of the 2002 Ballet Central National tour at the Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford

The task here was to add two movements to act as a prequel to Michael Nyman’s Keeping Pace - no easy thing, since the Nyman is a tremendously exciting neo-baroque number with a driving riff for a whole large aggravated section of saxophones. Clearly the music had to cohabit the Nyman world, and to this end we double tracked Ian Stuart’s alto sax in the moto perpetuo of a first movement, with his staccato syncopated nervous sax gestures playing off the piano continuum, creating an intense urban feel to the piece. Just to make doubly sure that it would dovetail with the Nyman, his last chord was sampled and acts as the first chord of the Urban Antiphon, and goes on to feature strongly at the end of the movement.

The second section is a duet, starting with a lonely sax melody, which is a close cousin to some of the lonely writing for sax in A Steetcar Named Desire, which the composer had premiered the previous autumn. Cascading quasi-minimalist piano arpeggio chords accompany the sax, which twists its way through a variety of keys until it heads towards C minor, in order to position itself perfectly to lead directly and seamlessly into the Nyman.

Matthews’ pieces for Ballet Central are always very effective as choreography and as graduating year totems, and Keeping Pace benefited not only from not being last in the Ballet Central programme but also from Kieron Docherty’s brilliant flashing Northern Lights-style lighting design.

photos by Bill Cooper