String Ensemble, 12 mins, 2020

Chamber | Large Ensemble

Talisman is scored for 13 strings: 7 violins, 3 violas, 2 violoncellos, 1 double bass.

Talisman was Commissioned by the Manchester Collective for premiere in 2021 at Stoller Hall, Manchester for BBC Radio 3 live broadcast.

Talisman is about objects that hold special power, magic and meaning to people. The objects are often imbued with this magic through an event or story, making the object into a distilled moment in time that can be extracted or conveyed through a ritual; another ‘event’ that becomes part of the object. These moments and objects that hold magical or occult powers, exist in a sort of liminal space in our minds - we can believe them and not believe them at the same time. That place of strange mystery and contradiction is where this piece sits. 

At the time when I was starting to write this piece, I was thinking about and re-reading some articles by two of my favourite writers, Rebecca Tamás and Elena Ferrante. Looking back at my notebook from where I started writing Talisman, I’ve copied down fragments of Tamás’ writing as well as a quote from an Elena Ferrante article on plants:

“They are prisoners and yet they extend, twist, and creep their way in, break the stone. Their roots grow deeper and deeper… Maybe it’s that contrast that disorients me: they have in themselves a blind force that doesn’t fit with their cheerful colours, their pleasing scents. At the first opportunity they manage to get back everything that was taken from them, dissolving the shapes that we have imposed by domesticating them.”

— Elena Ferrante, on plants

“I don’t know what happens in, between and around the glinting membrane of the world, the spaces of snow, of glass, of roses, but my body and my mind tell me that there inhuman voices, light leaking through in shards, the smell of sun and plant matter.”

— Rebecca Tamás, on poetry and the language of the occult

Writing Talisman I had these images in mind: the ritual or event that bestows magic on an object, and the object that bestows magic on the ritual, the roots of a great tree cracking open concrete and paving stones, the score itself as a talisman for the ritual of performance.