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David Fennessy: Panopticon

  • for string sextet and cimbalom
  • Duration: 18’
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st violin
    2nd violin
    1st viola
    2nd viola
    1st violoncello
    2nd violoncello
  • Composer: David Fennessy
  • Commission: Commissioned by Psappha and Hebrides Ensemble and funded by Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, PRS for Music Foundation Beyond Borders Scheme, Britten Pears Foundation, Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, and Kimie Trust

Work introduction

Panopticon continues a line of enquiry present in pieces of mine beginning with graft (1999) for string quartet through to Hauptstimme (2013) for solo viola and ensemble, and Hirta Rounds (2015) for sixteen unconducted strings – namely the role of the individual within a larger, group setting and particularly, the functions of leaders and followers.

In this piece, the cimbalom player assumes the role of ‘instigator’ and ‘governor’. Instigator insomuch as every attack on the string of the instrument has a direct, albeit delayed consequence in the rest of the string ensemble. Each beat on the strings of the cimbalom triggers a ripple, much like a stone dropped into a still lake, which eventually reaches the strings who reflect and magnify its effects. The cimbalom also governs all aspects of pulse and dynamic and, through its careful exploration of the natural harmonics available on its lowest string, plots the entire course of the piece.

The word “panopticon” is usually associated with an 18th century design concept of a circular prison whereby the cells were arranged around a central well, from which prisoners could be observed at all times.

Sample pages

World première

St Andrews in the Square, Glasgow (GB)
Hebrides Ensemble

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