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 six 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. An Outstretched Hand was recorded in May 2018 by the Veles Ensemble, with Peter Cigleris, Catalina Ardelean and Daniel Shao for the Toccata Classics label.
© Copyright Steve Elcock 2022