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DRIFTWOOD - 2023 - 3’
for orchestra - - cel - 2perc* - harp - timp - strings

*F# bass bell, bass drum, crotales, tubular bells, glockenspiel

perusal score - buy full score

A private archival recording is available on request.

Robin Haigh is drawn to materials and inspirations that are corny, abject, perhaps even a little vulgar. In previous pieces he has pursued an expression of ‘millennial nostalgia’, an emotional oscillation between ‘transcendental elation and disengaged ennui’. DRIFTWOOD moves beyond these specific concerns but shares similar aesthetic ground. Its setting is the beach – or, more precisely, the sort of beach found in luxury advertising, on calypso records, or possibly in James Bond films. The beach as Hawaiian guitars and lurid drinks with cocktail umbrellas.

But if this suggests simple tropicalia, Haigh has other ideas. This is the beach of The White Lotus, or Alex Garland’s 1996 novel: imagined, heavily mediated and with a dark underbelly. Ukuleles are evoked at the beginning but distorted via the medium of massed and detuned pizzicato effects; the oboe (and later other winds) makes an appearance as a kind of microtonal seagull; and plucked strings swell and recede in queasy rhythmic waves. Like driftwood, the listener is passively afloat – but also buffeted, displaced and at the mercy of much larger forces. ‘In Norse mythology the first humans were made of driftwood’, Haigh says of his inspirations. ‘Somehow this set my mind racing with the metaphor of the modern lives many of us experience as being somehow akin to living as a piece of driftwood, unable to control anything around us in a half-serene, half-anxious state of flux.’

- Tim Rutherford-Johnson