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PK - Proms 2010

PK small.jpg

This piece was composed for musicians from two geographically separated areas - Cornwall and London.   I wanted to have a central thread which held some resonance for these musicians, but also had a sense of rightness for a project involving three different groups who have worked separately (remotely) and only come together right at the end for the performance.   Communication, codes and telegraphy (the Victorian internet) have provided that thread.


The work is scored for 3333 4431 5 perc harp piano strings 14: 12 :10: 8: 6.     It lasts ten minutes and was commissioned by the BBC for 2010 Proms Festival.


Back in 1870 England was linked up to India (and subsequently all continents) by a chain of submarine telegraphic cables.  The designated spot in the UK for the cables to land was West Cornwall, from where overland cables would link to London.  At its height Porthcurno, a tiny and remote village, was the world's largest cable station with 14 telegraphic cable paths in operation linking the UK with the rest of the world.    It had a pivotal role in world communication and still today those same submarine pathways are used for the current fibre-optic cables transmitting digital information, even from wireless devices (!), round the world.   PK is the telegraphic code name for Porthcurno.


Telegraph messages use morse code and also during the war E.F.M. codes were employed.   The piece PK uses these codes to generate musical material.   The text is drawn from specific transcribed telegraph messages and revolves around the initial fragility of the then new global communication system.


The piece uses Morse code rhythms to generate material and Graham has used rhythms based on specific messages which have been sent using this code , including the first official message sent in America by Samuel Morse - 'What hath god wrought?'.    The composer has also created his own codes.


The Porthcurno Museum were incredibly helpful in the research for this project.  The link to their website is below.



30 August 2010   Royal Albert Hall, London

cond. Keith Lockhart

diary : PK | program_note : PK | text : PK Text | link : Porthcurno Museum
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