A Room at the End of the Mind

Twelve short pieces

published by: Composers Edition

Programme Note

This collection of short pieces forms a sequel to an earlier dozen entitled A House of Ghosts (after a line in a largely-forgotten poem by Humbert Wolfe). In a prefatory note to the older group I described them as a disparate collection of stray thoughts and modest ideas which had accumulated haphazardly, a little like an intermittent diary, but which one day suggested themselves as a set simply because by then there were quite a few of them, each looking a little lonely on its own. I had brought them together more for convenience of presentation than through any integrated intention. The pianist was invited to play them in any grouping or sequence, according to whim or occasion, even though the order given seemed best suited to a complete performance at one sitting.

A Room at the End of the Mind  is a phrase borrowed with permission from a poem by John Burnside. This is another set of twelve pieces, but they are generally a little more substantial and for slightly more advanced players than the first set, ending in a more overtly virtuoso piece. A Room at the End of the Mind also differs from A House of Ghosts in that, whereas the letter was dedicated to my children in hopes that they might derive some playing pleasure from them one day, the later set is variously dedicated to friends and colleagues, each having a prefatory paragraph explaining its provenance. Indeed, (pace Elgar) the score bears an inscription ‘To my friends not exactly pictured within’.

A third dozen is gradually assembling itself, this consisting of more random items such as a pastiche of Medtner, a quasi-Irish love song, a toccata on two Christmas carol tunes and a deeply-felt elegy in memory of my ‘best man’ and dear friend since school days, Jon Leyne (1958-2013), aka Joffy: bassoonist, pianist and the BBC’s talented and dependable anchor news man at the UN in New York, in Tehran and latterly in Cairo, whose death from a malignant brain tumour leaves a lasting void, both in my life and in radio and television journalism. An unrelated short work also bears a dedication to Jon: the chorale prelude Schmucke dich, O liebe Seele (q.v. elsewhere in this website) commissioned for William Whitehead’s important Orgelbuchlein project which is steadily amassing original modern works based on the chorale tunes which Bach never reached.

Programme Note