Into the light

for clarinet (B flat/E flat/bass), bassoon, trumpet, trombone, percussion (1 player), violin, bass.
20 mins.

Commissioned by Stour Music, and first performed at the Stour Music Festival on 28th June 1986 by Aquarius, conducted by Nicholas Cleobury.

Programme notes

INTO THE LIGHT stemmed from the unlikely partnership of the Venerable Bede and Arthur Conan Doyle. In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People (written in about 731) Bede describes a council of Northumbrian chieftains, presided over by King Edwin, in the year 627. One of the chiefs addresses the king as follows:

“This is how man’s life on earth seems to me, your majesty, compared with that which is unknown to us: on a wild winter night you are dining with your councillors and noblemen. A fire is blazing in the hearth, and the room is warm; outside, the wind roars, rain beats down, and snow drives across the land. Suddenly a sparrow flies swiftly through the hall – in at one door and out through another. Whilst indoors, it is untouched by the storm; yet, once this brief moment of serenity has flashed past, the bird returns from winter to winter and vanishes from your eyes. This is how man’s life seems; of what may come, of what may have gone before, we are utterly ignorant”.

This allegory upon time and infinity was my starting-point. My treatment is more gradual: a living organism evolves slowly out of the darkness, emerges briefly into the light, and returns to darkness.

As for Conan Doyle, he touched on the same idea and provided the title. In THE SIGN OF FOUR, Holmes and Watson are on their way to meet a mysterious stranger. Dr. Watson’s journal continues: ” . . . the yellow glare from the shop-windows . . . threw a murky, shifting radiance across the crowded thoroughfare. There was . . . something eerie and ghostlike in the endless procession of faces which flitted across these narrow bars of light – sad faces and glad, haggard and merry. Like all humankind, they flitted from the gloom into the light and so back into gloom once more”.

INTO THE LIGHT was commissioned by Stour Music, and is scored for clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, percussion and double bass. It was first performed on 28th June 1986 by Aquarius, conducted by Nicholas Cleobury, at the Stour Festival. It lasts about twenty minutes.

Giles Swayne 2008