Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World (2007)

For solo percussion and orchestra

Commissioned by the Royal Northern College of Music

Programme Note:

The Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami’s masterful work ‘Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World’ dogmatically alternates between two narrative threads: one real and hard-edged, the other fantastical and dream-like. Rather than attempt to be programmatic or in any way descriptive of the novel, my percussion concerto (of the same name) attempts to mirror these threads in my own compositional language.

The work is cast in four movements:

‘one’ presents three rounds of a rhythmic ‘game’ played between soloist and the orchestral wind section(s), the start of each game being triggered by a recurring refrain from a concertante group of harp and string quartet. In each round, the orchestra’s rhythmic material is first absorbed by the soloist, then re-presented in complex (often polyrhythmic) new ways. The games themselves are contained within a larger frame, where a sequence of chords emerges from dense tumbling chromaticism. ‘two’ can be considered as a condensation or clarification of the first movement: the soloist’s previously ‘winning’ material now serving to warp a strange chamber-group. ‘three’ offers a bizarre cadenza, whereas in ‘four’ the soloist (now playing solo vibraphone) sometimes leads, is sometimes is dragged-by, the orchestra through a sometimes repetitive, sometimes angular narrative path.

‘Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World’ was written for the RNCM Chamber Orchestra and premiered by them on the 22nd June 2007 with Clark Rundell conducting. The solo part was written for the 2006 BBC Young Musician of the Year Percussion Finalist, Toby Kearney. The work is dedicated to him. 


Approximately 20 minutes

Score Excerpt: