The orchestration for this work consists of solo viola,
a normal string orchestra but including a piano, which also serves as a
percussion instrument. The work is characterised over long stretches by an
organ point, something which I have observed has shown up in some of my last
pieces. Towards the end this tonally stabilising state is abandoned and the
F-sharp tone, which is the organ point, is functionalised and perceived as the
dominant of B-minor. The variations around the organ point, which call it into
question and then return to it – are all primarily initiated and sustained by
the solo instrument. The tonally static state, which occurs over longer
periods, provokes rhythmic developments which drive the piece forward. At the
end, the motif from the beginning reappears, reinterpreted tonally and
acoustically, bringing the jorney, so to speak, to an end.
The title Still refers primarily to the concept of the
video still, a frozen image from a video film, which is altered, processed or
perhaps left as it is. The interesting aspect of the video stills is usually
the details, the patterns which one can observe and which one does not
naturally see ( or at least perceives differently) when it is in motion.
Correspondingly the piece deals with movement and the cessation of movement. It
is also about introspection and activity. Still also means stillness – and stillness
is precisely an idea which I associate very much with the viola.
Still was commissioned by the Stuttgart Chamber
Orchestra and the International Mozarteum Foundation (ISM). The premiere took
place on 2 February 2003 at the Salzburg Mozart Week with Kim Kashkashian and
the Stuttgart Chamber orchestra under Dennis Russell Davies.