Points of attraction

by Matthew Whittall

Empty sheet

Matthew Whittall

Points of attraction

Fennica Gehrman


Although Points of attraction is a more abstract work than is habitual for me, it is not entirely so. Despite my best efforts to distance myself from my usual, more association-laden mode of composition, the piece very quickly – and predictably – became associative, and with that most personal and human of things: relationships. This theme is woven into the music in a number of ways. First, it is found in the odd pairing of violin and horn, two instruments which, through the mediation of the piano, have historically achieved a kind of perilously balanced, quasi-soloistic truce in the limited oeuvre for this combination. It also concerns my own rapport with my work, past and present: having kept the horn, my former main instrument, at arm’s length for many years, I finally felt I could approach it as a composer and give it idiomatic, challenging music that wouldn’t sound like a highlight reel of its repertoire. Finally, there is the deceptive relationship between different types of music heard over the course of the piece, which may appear radically different, but which are, in reality, various surface elaborations of the same basic materials heard at the beginning.

The form is a simple two-part structure, with a fast movement followed by a slow one. At the outset, I envisioned the horn and violin as being in the end stages of a tender but ultimately dysfunctional relationship, with each trying in its own way to force the other to listen as they progress through different environments provided by the piano, working in vain to find points of common agreement. As the piece nears its conclusion, the musical events become increasingly disconnected, and the pair of solo instruments, whose tightly wound bond has been slowly unraveling, finally release their hold on each other and part company. As a parallel narrative to this liaison breaking down, one could add a sense of progression from indoor to outdoor, or even urban to pastoral. As the crowded, hectic, intermittently bopping atmosphere of the first movement gives way to space and resonance, the characters are made to slow down and listen – to themselves, to the others, to their environment – and find beauty and grace in the most ordinary of things.

© Matthew Whittall


vln, hn, pno


Chamber Works


Laura Vikman, violin, Tommi Hyytinen, horn, Tiina Karakorpi, piano, Musica nova Helsinki, Helsinki, March 13, 2007.

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