Spindle is a concert work for cello and orchestra that has at its heart a setting of the Kenneth Slessor poem Sleep – a text I first set many years ago. Whilst the text is patently absent from this incarnation, the resonances and philosophical themes remain intact. The spindle of the title refers not to a physical object, but to a state of sleep where there are sudden and extreme bursts of activity, often followed by involuntary muscle spasms. An article in The Journal of Neuroscience suggests that sleep spindle activity is associated with the integration of new memories and existing knowledge, an idea with particular resonance for me as a cellist turned composer.
The work is in a broad ternary form with the central section of the work attempting to evoke the lush vagaries of sleep. In contrast to these, the outer sections are intended as characterisations of the daylight world, where the uncompromising nature of reality and time deny the selflessness of sleep. They are dominated by brighter and sharper textures than the central section and utilise additive rhythmic processes amongst the accompaniment, building a rhythmically vital but oddly mechanistic sound world. The poem is of course also about life and birth, and I’d like to thank Janis Laurs and the Adelaide International Cello Festival the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and of course Gabriel for being fantastic midwives in this process.
“Schwabe proved a most versatile interpreter, too, turning in a brilliant performance of the evening’s most interesting work, Spindle, by Perth-born composer Iain Grandage.
Inspired by Kenneth Slessor’s poem Sleep and based on the phenomenon of what is known as “sleep spindle”, which refers to bursts of brain activity that precede deep dreaming, it is a most stunning addition to contemporary cello repertoire.
A slowly pulsating rhythm builds up with thunderous effect from an initial state of mysterious stillness to a culminating ecstatic high. Helped by the fact Grandage is also a cellist, the cello part is expertly written to exploit its soulful voice against a backdrop of kaleidoscopically changing orchestral colour.
Graham Strahle, The Australian 4/4/2011
Related Works : Sleep for Mezzo Soprano and Orchestra