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At Night is a diptych inspired by two poems on the theme of night.
The first depicts the excited play of a young child (drawing on my own recent experiences as a first-time parent) as bedtime slowly approaches. After being lulled to sleep by a caring parent, the child enters the “Land of Nod”, as described so beautifully by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) in his poem of the same name. In this strange dream-realm, various odd, imp-like creatures are depicted, dancing and playing, before the child eventually begins to awaken, slowly returning to the playful state of the opening.
Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear
The curious music that I hear.
The second begins by depicting the calm, thoughtful yet ultimately mysterious act of stargazing depicted in a beautiful poem entitled Let There Always be Light (Searching for Dark Matter) by the poet and cosmologist Rebecca Elson (1960-99). Her poem ponders the nature of dark matter that physicists suspect mysteriously holds the universe together (completely undetectable except for its gravitational effect). Elson considers the so-called heat death of the universe with “its last star going out”, before striking an optimistic tone, willing enough dark matter into existence “for immortality, always a star where we can warm ourselves”, enough to light “the bright spark of resurrection”. The musical follows a similar trajectory, “going out cold” into silence mid-way through, before “relighting” itself in the music’s final moments of harmonic warmth.
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