Publisher: Novello & Co
commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Novello & Co Ltd
During the time when I was writing Birches I was living in Germany, and whenever I thought of home I found my head filled with images of the stands of birch trees that spread across the hillsides and streamsides of the Highlands. While there are certain aspects of the piece - 'woody' sounds from the strings, lines 'branching' out from one another - that evoke a certain impression of 'tree-ness', the piece came to express for me a deeper symbolism of the unity of nature and our place as humans within it: that we and everything we make are as much a part of nature as the birches.
In the first half of the piece the winds and strings are treated as separate, homogeneous units, symbolising the separateness we often perceive between ourselves and nature. In the central section the instrumental groups merge repeatedly to form three mixed groups of instruments (high, middle and low) - a metaphorical journey into the very substance of the birches. In the final section these mixed groups continue, rapidly tracing a life-cycle or seasonal cycle (from high to low instruments and back) which could be that of humans, birches, Earth, or any part of nature.
© 2007 Stuart MacRae