Timaeus Of Locri Contemplates The Creation Of A Perfect World

2014

For: extended piano
Duration: 20 minutes

This piece was written for Kate Ryder and is dedicated to her. The extended piano uses PNOscan sensors placed below the keyboard to generate MIDI signals which allow additional sounds to be generated. This piece uses a set of auxilliary harmonics to create an altered type of resonance focused on the higher registers. The harmonic overtones are based on the chords used in the piece itself and so link timbre and harmony together. The piece was inspired by some of the late piano writing of Morton Feldman and the sense of space and time that he manages to generate. The music sounds very different to Feldman but I hope it shares this spacious ethos.

The Timaeus of the title makes his sole appearance in one of Plato's Socratic Dialogues in which Plato explores a variety of philosophical ideas through the narrative device of imagining a meeting, a form of seminar, between his teacher, Socrates, and a number of other thinkers. In the fragment that has become known as Timaeus and Critias Timaeus leads discussion of the nature and order of the Cosmos giving, initially, a resumé of a lecture by Socrates supposedly given on the previous day, then opening up the debate to wider discussion of the issues raised. In the second part Critias relates the myth of Atlantis and compares the forms of government of Atlantis and Athens, coming down on the side of the more ordered Athenian society and alleging thedestruction of Atlantis was due to lapses in morality and order that offended the gods, provoking their anger.

While there is other evidence for the existence of Critias and some of the other characters, this is the only mention in the entire historical record of Timaeus, making it possible that he was just a figment of Plato's imagination, a narrative device - or perhaps he really did exist.

I confess to being drawn towards him initially because of the similarity between his name and mine. On reading the text, his character emerges as that of a rather bluff individual who doesn't tolerate what he regards as foolishness. His dismissal, in the opening paragraphs of those who don't believe in the gods as idiots, is typical of his attitude. He is thoughtful, but has something of the Victor Meldrew about him. I have tried to capture something of this character, essentially contemplative but with the odd episode of harrumphing, in this music which stretches over 19 episodes and 20 minutes.