This was commissioned by Radio 3 as part of a series of ‘Nocturnes’. I guess traditionally a Nocturne might be something close to a lullaby – I wanted to go for something rather less restful, reflective of the 24-hour culture of a modern city. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

The initial spark came from a turn-of-the-century novel by Paul Lepin, entitled Severin’s Journey into the Dark. Severin wanders the night-time streets of old Prague in search of some kind of salvation, but instead finds only deeper and darker depravities. Lepin describes these restless nights as ‘the burnt out ends of smoky days’.

My aim was to capture the spirit of Severin’s wanderings, but to superimpose the contemporary backdrop of a modern-day metropolis such as Birmingham or London (two cities where I spent many restless nights wandering in search of source recordings!). I wanted to evoke the Dionysian intoxication and exhilaration of the metropolitan nightscape, the noise and bright lights – but also the darker side; the dirt, the sleaze, the violence; and the sense of irresponsibility and dispossession the city night breathes.

The action begins in an almost deserted shopping mall, just as the last shoppers leave for home…

Additional Notes

  • Commissioned by BBC Radio 3.
  • Premiered by Philip Mead and Simon Limbrick in Birmingham and broadcast on Radio 3.
  • Performed by Kristine Scholz and Magnus Einarssohn at the Electronic Art Festival in Stockholm, and broadcast on Swedish Radio.
  • Selected by the BBC for presentation at the International Rostrum on Electro-Acoustic Music.
  • Performed at the ICMC (Michigan).
  • Toured in the UK by York-based ensemble Black Hair.