Uncanny Vale

The Uncanny Valley
by Half-pass – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43809080

Uncanny Vale is about the traversal of a strange landscape of contrasting musical ideas, bookended by chaotic descent and ascent passages. It is a pastoral piece of sorts, but instead of representing rolling meadows à la the British ‘Cow Pat School’, it explores nature as a dynamic, volatile and sometimes disturbing force.

The title is an adaptation of ‘Uncanny Valley’, which is the name of a phenomenon found in fields that involve representations of the human form, such as robotics and animation. It refers to a sense of revulsion at a figure that very closely resembles a human being, but not closely enough to be truly realistic. The technological origin of the phrase is a contradiction of the pastoral theme, and this contradiction mirrors my interest in balancing musical ideas that move either mechanically or freely.

There are two versions of Uncanny Vale: one for wind quintet commissioned by the Britten Sinfonia, and a revised shorter version for reed quintet.

Version 1

10 minutes
Wind quintet
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Uncanny Vale was co-commissioned by Britten Sinfonia and Wigmore Hall following OPUS2014, a competition for unpublished composers. The commission was made possible by the generous donations of 22 people including principal commissioners Roger and Susan May and one donation in memory of Ettore Fenaroli, as part of Britten Sinfonia’s Musically Gifted campaign. Wigmore Hall acknowledges the support of André Hoffmann, president of the Fondation Hoffmann, a Swiss grant-making foundation.

Version 2

9 minutes
Reed quintet


03/12/2014Britten SinfoniaWigmore Hall, London
02/12/2014Britten SinfoniaWest Road Concert Hall, Cambridge
18/03/2014Britten SinfoniaSt Andrew’s Hall, NorwichWP