Gerald Finzi once compared composing to shaking hands "with a good friend over the centuries". It was perhaps this that first brought the idea of the outstretched hand into my mind, and no sooner had it lodged there than I became aware of the ambiguity of the image: is this hand appealing for help, or is it extended to offer help? A similar ambiguity seems to be behind the poem by Stevie Smith "Not waving but drowning" in which an appeal for help is confused with a hand waved in greeting.
The tensions between these two interpretations - cry for help and solace - were sufficient to generate this 19 minute piece for five instruments. Although in one unbroken movement traces of four movements can be heard, though in an unusual order: slow, fast, fast, slow. Most of the material derives from the semi-tonal oscillation of the opening.
The symbolism of the outstretched hand finds expression in the usual blend of desperation and compassion which it seems to be my lot to purvey.
© Copyright Steve Elcock 2016