Man and Bat

Skempton, Howard (2017) Man and Bat. [Composition]

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Abstract

Man and Bat is the third large-scale piece for soloist and ensemble to have been commissioned from me by Maurice and Sheila Millward. It is a setting of a poem by D H Lawrence for baritone, piano, string quartet and double bass. The tussle of man and bat required music of lively character. If ‘The Rime’ is a “yarn” (to use Roderick Williams’ lovely description), Man and Bat is more like a “rummage”!

Lawrence’s text is admirably clear, and strikingly direct; almost everyday. I had previously set (in The Moon is Flashing (2007)) his better-known Snake, and my setting of this was steady and ruminative. My treatment of the encounter of man and bat required fuller textures, and greater energy and urgency. The poem has lightness and wit. The sprightly, relaxed opening of the music serves to capture this, and there is a witty take on lines that are arresting in their plainness: for example, “And he did not mind the yellow electric light”.

There are also moments of inherent tenderness, and this is conveyed from bar 1158 onwards, for example: “So I picked him up in a flannel jacket”. It is also caught in the glow of the final section, from bar 1261: “And now, at evening”.

It was paramount to follow the rhythm of the words. The musical language is more chromatic than for The Rime. Melodic ideas recur, as lines in the poem recur.

Item Type: Composition
Date: 20 July 2017
Subjects: W300 Music
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Depositing User: Andrew Ingamells
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2021 13:10
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2021 13:10
URI: http://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/11004

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