Why bring together this Bach Suite and a Tango?
"The idea that sprang to mind was to add a modern dance onto Bach’s sequence of baroque dances. I’m particularly drawn to the sound of the Suite No. 1 because baroque string style (gut strings, and détaché bowing), and the brittleness of the harpsichord continuo, are appropriate to the style of a tango. The bassoon and lower strings are ideal for the tango’s stark marcato bass lines, and the baroque oboes have something of the reed-like quality of the bandoneon. This last dance also recalls the song of the hooded grebe Podiceps gallardoi, the Argentinian water bird whose song will be my theme. Bach’s dances vary in their metre. The the tango’s so-called sincopa (3+3+2), and would be characteristically danceable."
Why “The Last Dance?”
"I have become fascinated with birdsong as a way to learn music and train my ears. Though very complex and nuanced, birdsong remains accessible and inclusive, whereas complex contemporary music is much less so. Birdsong can only be heard when artificial background sound - from cars, piped and amplified music in public spaces, and speakers outside shops - is removed. We all know how different a street feels when there are places for birds, and no cars or piped music. Generating a desire among people to hear birdsong might induce them to consider things such as amplified music in public spaces and parks, or the noise from cars, to be the pollution that they are. My music reaches out to raise awareness of the right to silence, so that we can talk to each other, have the space to think, and to hear nature, the trees, the birds; this feels a very natural extension of my creativity."
The wider picture
"This commission coincided with Jeffrey Skidmore asking me to compose a piece using birdsong at dawn for the magical voices of his choir, Ex Cathedra, composed for performance in Hereford and Birmingham Cathedrals and adaptable to other complex spaces. My current fascination with birdsong arises from my involvement in our fledgling BirdMusic ensemble with musicologist, Professor Amanda Bayley, and neuroscientist, Dr Ian Winter. This group combines musical creativity, education, and research within the context of birds and trees in both city and countryside. So for this piece for the BBC Proms I wanted to keep flying with the birds by combining the sounds of Bach’s orchestration and the dance form of tango with the call of the Argentinian hooded grebe, because its movement is tangoesque and its song is so musical. After deciding to use the call of the hooded grebe for themes for the Tango, I became aware that this bird is "critically endangered" (International Union for Conservation of Nature and BirdLife International). The work's title draws on its plight.”