Cuckmere: A Portrait


Genre:  Chamber orchestra: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon; horn, trumpet; 1 percussion (timp; bass drum; susp cymbal; glockenspiel); piano; strings (min. 3.3.2.2.1)

Description: A chamber orchestra work in four main movements, written for a film by Cesca Eaton, creating a musical portrait of the River Cuckmere and Cuckmere Haven, Sussex, across a year of seasons, through silent film and an opulent and constantly changing orchestral score
Duration: 30 minutes
Date: 2018

Programme Note

The music is inspired by the film's depiction of continuity of landscapes and also its dramatic changes (e.g. the shapes of downland and the dramatic cutting away of cliff edges). Music also reflects the large-scale contrasts and moods of passing seasons. This is done with a structure in which four musical movements, using contrasting tempos, themes and harmonies, align with film sequences corresponding to the changing seasons of Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer.

An electronic prelude and three electronic interludes introduce and connect these four movements, so that the work weaves between sonic and immersive textures, and purely instrumental musical sequences.

Hughes’ score takes the river as its source, its restless energy bubbling through the strings and broadening out into rich, majestic textures in the wind and brass. Here is music that asks questions rather than making statements. Never the familiar ‘Behold, our magnificent cliffs’ but instead, ‘Why does this landscape fascinate us and what’s our place in it?
— Eleanor Knight, The Argus, 8 May 2018

a powerful and very evocative score that develops beautifully with the picture. Roxanna Panufnik on Cuckmere: A Portrait (30 Nov 2018)