June Unfolding

June Unfolding was written for a con­cert marking the 750th Anniversary of Macclesfield’s Royal Charter given by King Edward Musical Society in June 2011. Faced with the length of time in ques­tion — an un­ima­gin­able dur­a­tion, the change during which is dif­fi­cult to fathom — it was a chal­lenge to re­spond in a mean­ingful way. As time passes we forget and our memories are more and more like eroded stones or frag­mented tapestries where the weave has come un­done. What we read in a single thread be­comes its own ima­ginary world that seems con­nected to the past. At various points in June Unfolding we come across frag­ments of and al­lu­sions to other music, each time ab­stracted and trans­formed, in a nod to the idea of eroded memory.

Following two work­shops with the or­chestra in January 2011 playing with open scoring methods using graphic nota­tion and dir­ected im­pro­visa­tion, the fin­ished work plays with the idea of ‘un­folding’ as a way of or­gan­ising the sound. Maps are a way to lay out in­form­a­tion about enormous spaces in a way that is quickly un­der­stood. As we un­fold a map we un­cover fields, forests, cities, streets and the strangely ritu­al­ised shapes of human hab­it­a­tion, bit by bit, piece by piece. With time we can gradu­ally delve into sound, un­folding and un­rav­el­ling its parts to find the threads that had been woven tightly. In music we map out time with sound, pla­cing land­marks to lead us through a land­scape we are often only dimly aware of.

Above all, ‘un­folding’ sug­gests a pro­cess of the now. Music ex­ists in time, and it is as the work un­folds that we ap­pre­hend it, re­member it, forget it and play with it in our minds. In a sense, all music is a play of re­mem­bering and for­get­ting, so per­haps there is no better com­mem­or­ative me­dium than that which over the dur­a­tion of its ex­ist­ence com­mem­or­ates itself.

June Unfolding was de­veloped for King Edward Musical Society as part of the Adopt-a-Composer scheme, funded by the PRS for Music Foundation and run by Sound and Music in as­so­ci­ation with Making Music. Thank you to all the players of the or­chestra of King Edward Musical Society and es­pe­cially to con­ductor Tony Houghton and chairman Tim Ward who were im­mensely sup­portive throughout the process.

June Unfolding was first per­formed on 18 June 2011 and re­corded by BBC Radio 3.

Logos of PRS for Music Foundation, Sound and Music, Making Music and King Edward Musical Society

  • Instrumentation

    • 2 Flutes (1 doubling Piccolo)
    • 2 Oboes
    • 2 Clarinets
    • 2 Bassoons
    • 3 (or 4) Horns
    • 2 Trumpets
    • Timpani
    • 1 Percussionist (Snare Drum, Suspended Cymbal, Triangle)
    • Strings (
  • Details

    • Duration: 13’30”
    • First performance: 18 June 2011, King Edward Musical Society, St. Michael and All Angels Church, Macclesfield, UK
  • Audio