Luke Bedford: At Three and Two

Luke Bedford At Three and Two
At Three and Two

Luke Bedford: At Three and Two

Year of composition:
Scored for:
for winds, percussion and double basses
Luke Bedford
3 3 3 3 - 4 3 3 1 - perc(3), cb(6+)
Instrumentation details:
1st flute
2nd flute
3rd flute (+alto fl)
1st oboe
2nd oboe
cor anglais
clarinet in Bb
1st bass clarinet in Bb
2nd bass clarinet in Bb
1st bassoon
2nd bassoon
1st horn in F
2nd horn in F
3rd horn in F
4th horn in F
1st trumpet in C
2nd trumpet in C
3rd trumpet in C
1st trombone
2nd trombone
bass trombone
"Commissioned by the Hallé Concerts Society Manchester, England World Prèmiere - Thursday 27th May 2010"
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At Three and Two
At Three and Two

The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Work introduction

At Three and Two was commissioned to be played before Mahler's Ninth Symphony. I didn't want to write a prelude to the symphony but rather something that faced up to it in a more tangential way. Mahler Nine is scored for an unusually large wind section, so I decided to make the wind, brass and percussion central to my piece and remove all the strings except the double basses, who would be essential for adding extra weight in the bottom octave.

The harmony for the piece is made up chords that are typically spread across many octaves, but which use just two or three notes. Rather than using many different notes at once, I wanted to explore how I could create a piece using this idea, but which also avoided conventional tonal progressions. I found that this technique resulted in a surprisingly broad harmonic palette - just changing one note can change a chord from something very rich into something far darker, and vice versa.

In a similar way, the rhythms in the piece are derived from a simple source – two notes played in the time of three – which are then multiplied against themselves to produce increasingly complex results – to the extent that some of the more outlandish patterns were simplified, as I felt they went beyond what I could reasonably expect a musician to play! So with all these ideas based around relationships between the numbers three and two in the air, it seemed natural that the title should reflect this in some way.

Luke Bedford

Download an MP3 of Luke Bedford talking about At Three and Two.

World première

Bridgewater Hall, Manchester (GB)
Hallé Orchestra
Mark Elder

Press reviews

“Bedford took his cue from the unusually large wind section in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony — and decided to write his short piece for winds, percussion and double-basses alone. Mark Elder, who conducted it, focused more on how Bedford tunes in to the teasing rhythmic cross-currents in the Mahler: the new work is called At Three and Two, because two notes are played in the time of three, and then multiplied against themselves to produce ... but I won’t go on.

Very little of this can be audible to the untutored ear. What the first-time listener hears is a sequence of powerful chords, widespread, yet using just two or three notes. Each chord falls like a heavy stone into water — and rhythmic ripples and reverberations spin out, refracting sound from all angles.

Bedford’s is a slight work. Yet, as soon as Elder raised his baton at the start of the mighty Mahler, the keenness of Bedford’s ear and the sensitivity of his imagination became fully apparent. And, right up to the last piping note of the first movement, Bedford’s fine-tuning into the heart of this symphony’s sensibility became audible in retrospect. Mahler’s pulsing double-basses, strange, isolated wind solos and chill silences spread out over a vast canvas for which Bedford’s piece seemed a tiny, etched aide-memoire.”

(Hilary Finch, The Times)

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