ochre, umber and burnt sienna
for mixed septet
flute, harp, 3 violins, 2 double basses
Year of composition:
Lontano/ conducted by Odaline de la Martinez
Arts & Humanities Festival 2012
Great Hall, King's College London, London, 19 October 2012
Men have used earth pigments for depicting their imaginings since prehistoric times, but I am particularly attracted by Johannes Vermeer’s use of ochre, umber and burnt sienna in some of his paintings of women in their private spaces. While visiting a Vermeer exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, I became absorbed in a mode of looking at those portraits that involves focusing on how their expressive backgrounds – saturated with tiny strokes of earth pigments – invite us to enter domestic spaces, in which pensive women ponder and rest.
ochre, umber and burnt sienna is written for a septet consisting of flute, harp, three violins and two double basses. While the two double basses play in their highest register, one of the violins (with its bottom string tuned a semitone lower than usual) provides a bridge that binds the ensemble into a monochrome whole made of hues of earthy tones.