Time Out Of Joint, Sketches From Hamlet, was written during the 2020 lockdown. There are themes that represent Shakespeare's characters - Hamlet, Ophelia, Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude and Laertes - but my main focus was to give a feeling of the edginess, manoeuvring, lying and corruption that are woven into this extraordinary play. For me, these underlying feelings - "something is rotten in the state of Denmark" - suggested elements of what we lived through in lockdown. The first movement is mainly concerned with Hamlet (a four note ascending whole tone scale), his relationship with Claudius (usually a slyly scheming trill or a decending fifth), and how that relates to Polonius, Gertrude and Ophelia (a three quaver major third motif). The second movement brings to the fore Ophelia's theme, a sometimes gentle, sometimes nervous addition or juxtaposition to Hamlet's theme. The third movement has plenty of bold, aggressive posturing but utimately ends in desolation, the final trumpet note fading away to nothing.
Peter Walton, August 2020
I've always loved jazz trumpeter Miles Davis' playing, especially in his 1950's and early 1960's groups that interpreted standard popular songs. I remember at college transcribing Miles' solo on Someday My Prince Will Come. My transciption of that solo taught me not only about Miles' beautiful choice of notes, but also his very personal use of space, the silence between the notes. Fragments plays with that idea of space, allowing the music to breathe and frame a tableaux of musical scenes. Ideally, the music would be heard in a large hall or church where the acoustics would become an integral part of the music, allowing the performer to work with the natural reverberations and determining the duration of the pauses and silences that are written into the music.
Peter Walton, February 2021
The work is in three movements played without a break. In the opening movement a rhythmic guitar motif drives the beginning of the journey as the flute introduces the basic building block of the piece, an interval of a seventh. As the movement progresses, the double basses begin to function as the fourth member of Acoustic Earth, providing bass lines for the group’s lively interplay. The orchestra becomes more animated towards the end of the first movement as the rhythmic guitar motif turns into an insistent and increasingly dissonant force, eventually crumbling into a quiet passage that leads into the middle, slow movement. Here all is still, as the flute, now an alto flute and later bass flute, has the spotlight, accompanied by gentle, delicate textures in the orchestral strings. The last movement, the longest of the three, constantly threatens to become a mad jig but the orchestra and soloists manage to twist and turn the material away from this course. Towards the end there is a short cadenza featuring the trio recapitulating the third movement’s material before an increasingly furious section leading to a brilliant and wild ending.
Peter Walton, 2014