Richard Whalley (Composer), Divertimento Ensemble (Performer)

Research output: Non-textual formComposition


PWonderland was commissioned following Whalley’s selection as a finalist in the Nutrire La Musica International Composition Competition, and was premiered at the Milan Expo in September 2015. A recording of a November 2017 Manchester performance by Psappha is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QA9Cii78iF0.

Developing the composer’s research investigating musical representation of nature’s variety and contrasts, the impetus for this piece was a walk from Alderley Edge to Hare Hill in Cheshire. The principal research aim was to express musically the graduated changes of atmosphere and environment and infinite variation of form encountered when moving through a natural environment, as plants and trees are viewed from different perspectives. Structure was built from distinctive blocks of material, representing natural objects, which had certain fixed characteristics (particularly of instrumentation), but transformed gradually as new ideas were introduced and others retreated. Players were guided by a graphic structure map of the piece, but aleatoric elements produced constant variation as blocks were superimposed in layered combinations whose coincidence in time was not predetermined, creating a sense of textural polyphony with varied degrees of coordination between blocks. Performers could also choose their own pathway through each block’s transformation, for example introducing gradual shifts of dynamic and articulation.

The research context for the soundworld of the blocks included the melodic and rhythmic contours of Messiaen’s birdsong transcriptions, and the slowly unfolding clarinet line in Birtwistle’s Melencolia, but the principal reference point was the uncoordinated textural layering of Bruno Maderna’s Giardino Religioso. In adapting this technique to retain a much stronger sense of harmonic control the work provided research insights into how structure can be created by maximising the composer’s control over the characterisation of sounds, while simultaneously allowing the performers aleatoric freedom as they engage, listen and find their own way through an evolving and distinctive sonic landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOnline
PublisherComposers Edition
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2015
EventConcorso Nutrire La Musica, Expo Milano 2015 - Expo Gate, Milan
Duration: 21 Sept 2015 → …


Dive into the research topics of 'Wonderland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this