The Circus Animals’ Desertion

Notes de programme

When composing The Circus Animals’ Desertion I was focused on finding ways of working with an intentionally limited range of musical ideas. The underlying basic materials, for example the still chords heard near the beginning of the piece in the piano or the riff that underpins much of the faster material, are recycled, reworked and heard in different contexts in order to create a unified but complex listening experience.

The title is taken from the 1933 poem by Y.B. Yeats, which I found when I had completed the first draft of this piece. The musical form of my initial (and now completed revised) draft was ABABABCC, which connects (incidentally) to the ottava rima rhyme scheme followed by Yeats in his poem. Having found the title my subsequent major overhaul of the piece was to some extent informed by the notion or atmosphere of the circus, for example the juvenile music that begins the second main section of the piece has a playfulness and energy that might be heard as ‘circusy’! The work, however, is not intended to be programmatic or depict some kind of Dumbo-like triumphalist narrative of animals escaping the confines of the circus.

Yeats’ poem, written near the end of his life, is actually about the struggle of writing and how in his youth inspiration was easy to come by - his ‘circus animals were all on show’ - but now as an old man he must search for inspiration ‘...In the foul rage and bone shop of the heart’. I find I still have many ‘circus animals’ up my sleeve but the hard thing is to sculpt the musical structures I can vomit out fairly reasonably easily into forms that engage, surprise and challenge the listener. I hope I have managed to achieve my aims to at least some degree in The Circus Animals’ Desertion.


- Ben Oliver


Année de composition
Commande de l'Ensemble Paramirabo