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Gwyn Pritchard: The Fruit of Chance and Necessity
solo ‘cello and ensemble (2004)

Democritus, the ancient Greek philosopher, asserted that “Everything in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity”, a statement relating to his atomic theory of matter. Within this theory nothing in the universe exists except atoms and the empty space within which they move. All changes in the world are changes in the motion of atoms, the way they are packed together and, in their random motion, collide to form larger bodies.  The world came about through necessity; from the nature of the atoms themselves. 

Leaving aside the broader philosophical relevance of Democritus’s theory, many of the concepts within it are remarkably apt metaphors for certain aspects of music and the processes underlying its composition, at least from my own point of view. For behind the evidently ‘composed’ audible surface of my music there are usually a considerable number of operations dependent upon both chance and necessity. 

In this piece, effectively a concerto for solo ‘cello and large ensemble, these concepts are at the forefront of the musical drama. The solo part proceeds along an unambiguous course, moving through a musical landscape defined by an ensemble whose material seldom relates more than superficially to the solo part, and often seems to oppose it. The soloist and ensemble are never dependent on one another, the essence of the piece lying in the space between the two and the collisions that inevitably occur. 

The Fruit of Chance and Necessity was composed specifically for my friend an colleague Beat Schneider, to a commission by Barry Noble – best known as a famous designer of yacht masts but also a maker of string instruments and a great enthusiast of the 'cello.

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