Orchestration: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drum, vibraphone, crotales, large tam-tam, suspended sizzle cymbal, slapstick), and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: April 21, 2023, Tianyi Lu conducting
About this Piece
The opening to This Midnight Hour is inspired by the character and power of the lower strings of the Orchestre National d’Île-de-France. From here, it draws inspiration from two poems—one by Charles Baudelaire and another by Juan Ramón Jiménez. Whilst it is not intended to depict a specific narrative, my hope is that the music will evoke a visual journey for the listener.
Jiménez’s poem [“La musica”] is very short and concise. [It] immediately struck me as a strong image and one that I chose to interpret with outbursts of frenetic energy—for example, dividing the strings into subgroups that play fortissimo staggered descending cascade figures from left to right in stereo effect. This stems from my early explorations of electroacoustic music.
corriendo loca por la noche pura!
a naked woman
running mad through the pure night!
(Translated by Robert Bly)
There is also a lot of evocative sensory imagery in Baudelaire’s “Harmonie du Soir,” the first stanza of which reads as follows:
Voici venir les temps où vibrant sur sa tige
Chaque fleur s’évapore ainsi qu’un encensoir;
Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir;
Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige!
The season is at hand when swaying on its stem
Every flower exhales perfume like a censer;
Sounds and perfumes turn in the evening air;
Melancholy waltz and languid vertigo!
(Translated by William Aggeler)
I riffed on the idea of the melancholic waltz about halfway into This Midnight Hour—I split the viola section in two and have one half playing at written pitch and the other half playing 1/4 tone sharp to emulate the sonority of an accordion playing a Parisian-esque waltz. —Anna Clyne