Programme Notes – Freedom (2004) for oboe and harp

There is a big price to be paid for freedom. Today there is limitless freedom of choice for consumers: at the click of a computer mouse one can arrange to fly anywhere in the world, eat or drink anything one likes, buy whatever products one wants; if you can’t afford it that’s OK, you can get another credit card. The consequence: (directly or indirectly) a more violent, less tolerant society, more world -wide war and famine, and the planet heating up to potentially catastrophic levels.

This nine -minute work can’t even begin to scratch the surface of these issues, but there is an equivalent for composers: we are now blessed with superb music processing packages that take a lot of the drudgery out of composition. Parts are extracted automatically; it’s possible to hear the piece back automatically, scores look immaculate, giving more time for the composer to write more works or get another credit card. As a result of this computer-led ‘freedom’ it has become easier for many more pieces to see the light of day, and I’m not sure that this can be good. Consequently, for this work I went back to producing a neat score using pen and paper and found that I had more freedom to express myself than ever before. At the start of the piece the oboe’s free rhapsodic line is held in check by the harp’s rigid, rhythmically unvarying perpetuum mobile. After a climax the two instruments join together, before slowly drifting apart to find a newly acquired freedom where the instruments can complement each other rather than battle for supremacy. The repeated harp notes at the end of the piece are no longer threatening or restrictive, and the oboe has the last laugh with a flirtatious gesture.

Freedom is dedicated to Melinda Maxwell.