Dark Formations

Genre: Large ensemble: flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, horn, piano, violin, cello + live electronics

Description:  A single movement work with a meditative and reflective character, originally conceived to match a stills sequence devised by the art historian Prof David Chandler, using images selected from the archive of the Imperial War Museum
Duration: 17 minutes
Date: 2010

Programme Note

Dark Formations uses still images and chamber music to explore and reflect on the intensive Allied bombing of German cities in the final years of World War II. The music composed is slow and ritualised, with dark, muted, often vibrato-less and mechanistic instrumental sounds matching the gradual unfolding and revealing of photographic stills. The electronics contributed complex showers of piano notes which echoed the spectacular effects of light caught in the camera.

[Pianist Richard] Casey accurately describes Hughes’s piece as “static and monumental,” a fascinating study in shades of gray that is nevertheless somehow mutely scintillating. Oxymoron though that sounds, it remains fascinatingly true. The hushed performance of Dark Formations here is remarkable in its glowering intensity.
Colin Clarke, Fanfare Magazine
— Colin Clarke, Fanfare Magazine
In the darkness and poetics of Dark Formations...I was drawn to the timbres, the ambiguities of the bass clarinet and piano writing; I was very impressed by the approach - a powerful meditation.
— Jonathan Harvey, composer