How the Arrow Flies

Research output: Non-textual formComposition


Commissioned for Comment-8 project, part of Northern Ireland’s regional programming around the 2012 Olympics, this 25’ collaborative work with writer Carolyn Jess-Cooke for duo, narrator and 4-channel sound responds to a brief to create a work influenced by an Olympic sport, in this instance, archery. The piece addresses an unusual yet germane research question concerning musical composition, namely, how to compose a work that engages with a sporting theme and communicate that influence within its musical construction and performance. The piece’s innovation lies in its multifaceted approach to this task, adopting a compositional strategy that simultaneously engages with the physical mechanics of the chosen sport as well as its broader connotations. Informed by several meetings with Ballyvally archery club, the solo cello at the heart of the work reflects the shared relationship that exists between archer and bow/arrow and musician and (stringed) instrument featuring material developed from musical gestures that mirror the act of firing an arrow into a target. The cello also references several sourced musical examples linked to the archery theme (William Tell Overture, PJ Harvey’s Bows and Arrows), revisiting notions of familiarity and illusion, explored in previous works by the composer. Meanwhile, the participating sporting group are themselves absorbed into the piece via a spatially diffused, electronic sound component that combines sound samples from their training sessions with cello gestures. This becomes the platform for a more conventional text setting of Jess-Cooke’s story of Archie, a blind but brilliant young archer, that further engages with the targeted sporting demographic and identified strategy of audience development. The inclusion of countertenor voice for the piece’s sung component establishes a medieval quality to the music that reflects the archery’s ancient heritage.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherVerbal Arts Centre
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 28 Feb 2011

Bibliographical note

Composition type: Instrumental, electronics and text. Collaborative Project


  • 2012 Olympics
  • Archery


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