Tiny Blue Marble – a piece of music I composed for Britten Sinfonia

I was lucky enough to be selected by Britten Sinfonia to be one of their Opus One composers. It was such a brilliant experience working with them from the get-go.

Everyone was so friendly and welcoming and the other composers were just lovely and I’m proud to call them my friends.

I was asked to write a four minute piece for flute, harp and viola. Over the course of the project we had three workshops, culminating in the recording session in Cambridge. Read more about the process here.

I wrote Tiny Blue Marble – a piece about a planet in crisis. It was inspired by the awesome images sent back to Earth by the Webb telescope in July 2022. The vastness of space contrasts sharply – starkly – with our tiny planet and our place in the immense, endless universe.

The flute, harp and viola ensemble creates a gorgeous warm sound with a mellow, pastoral quality. I wanted to use that sound to evoke a yearning for home, for comfort, for safety.

The piece opens with the instruments sounding hazy and lontano – as if they’re being heard from a distance. When I was writing it, I imagined what it would be like to be far, far away travelling through space towards Earth: what would our tiny blue marble look like? Feel like?

From the beginning, we’re aware of a sense of jeopardy; something’s not right. The heart-beat rhythm becomes slippy and unreliable while the flute plays a plaintive, ancient-sounding melody.

The piece opens up to describe nature. As I was writing it, I was picturing lush meadows, rivers, mountains, fields of wheat and cloudless skies. I wanted to write about the abundance and richness of life on Earth.

But then the skies darken. Once again we are aware of the great emptiness of space and the vulnerability of our precious, delicate Earth. The dangers mount: the climate crisis, political instability, war, polarised societies and a pervasive sense of anxiety all gather pace and almost overwhelm us.

The final part of the piece is about our planet being damaged – it desperately needs to heal. The arpeggios which characterise the piece now feel like fluttery heartbeats while the harp picks out the sound of a heart monitor as the music gradually fades away.

Tiny Blue Marble is my response to the challenges we face but it’s not a pessimistic piece. As a pragmatic realist, I know change is inevitable and difficulties recede eventually; even the darkest of dark nights ends and becomes morning.

I hope we all do everything we can to protect our beautiful home.

Anyway, have a listen. I really hope you like it.

This piece was played and recorded by Britten Sinfonia on 8th October 2022.

Photo by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/earth-illustration-355935/

Want to hear more music? Click here.

Want to hear some voice stuff? Click here!

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Emma Clarke

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