Sound and Fury draws upon two great works of art for its inspiration: Haydn’s Symphony No. 60 (“Il Distratto”) and Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The piece was premiered by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on a program that included this Haydn symphony.
“ll Distratto” incorporates Haydn’s music for Le Distrait, a play by Jean-François Regnard, so it seemed fitting to draw inspiration from both musical and literary sources for Sound and Fury. To begin, I listened to “lI Distratto” many times and on a single sheet of paper, I wrote down the key elements that caught my ear, which ranged from rhythmic gestures to melodic ideas, harmonic progressions, and even a musical joke (Haydn brings the feverish final prestissimo to a grinding halt for the violins to re-tune). I chose between one and four elements from each of the six movements and developed them though my own lens – layering, stretching, fragmenting and looping. Whilst experienced as one complete movement, Sound and Fury is also structured in six sub-sections that follow the same trajectory of “ll Distratto.”
In the fifth section of Sound and Fury I looped a harmonic progression from Haydn’s Adagio in “ll Distratto,” and this provides a bed of sound to support the delivery of “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…,” the last soliloquy delivered by Macbeth upon learning of his wife’s death, and from which this work takes its title.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
The connection to Shakespeare’s play emerged gradually during the writing process, but especially after watching a recording of a 1979 masterclass with Sir Ian McKellen analyzing this soliloquy’s imagery and rhythmic use of language. Time lies at the heart of it – “hereafter … time … tomorrow … to day … yesterday …” and music provides us with this framework. The last line of this soliloquy (“Signifying nothing.”) is incomplete; McKellen explains “the beats of the rest of that pentameter are not there – because the end of the speech is total silence – total oblivion – total emptiness.” So rich in imagery and metaphor, I also found inspiration in Shakespeare’s rhythmic use of language. For example, before delivering this soliloquy, and after learning of his wife’s death Macbeth says, “She should have died hereafter; There would have been a time for such a word.” McKellen says: “There’s something about that line which trips – in Hamlet’s words – tick tocks like a clock.” This is something that I play with also – layering rhythmic fragments that repeat and mark the passage of time.
My intention with Sound and Fury is to take the listener on a journey that is both invigorating – with ferocious string gestures that are flung around the orchestra with skittish outbursts – and serene and reflective – with haunting melodies that emerge and recede. Thank you to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, The Orchestre National de Lyon and Hong Kong Sinfonietta for this opportunity to delve into “ll Distratto” for the first time, and to revisit Macbeth.
—Anna Clyne, 2019