for two pianos

The sound-world of Flights, its form and the way it's played, derive from my observations of the sounds, shapes and rhythms of a river estuary. The simple and evocative calls of seabirds and waders, the movement of birds across the banks, the sudden flights of individuals or large flocks: all combine with the flow of the water to create a dynamic continuum throughout the tide cycle. The arrivals and dispersals and other apparently arbitrary events – accidents, changes of direction – interrupt the continuum and are then absorbed back into it.

This music is not descriptive; rather, the estuary provides it with a structural metaphor. All its events are related to one or more of a type, or family, defined by their harmony and motivic shape. The smaller events modify individually and in relation to one another throughout the course of the music; their changes articulate the music's formal shape.

Each pianist has different material which reflects the other's; the course is set, but the performers' immediate relation to each other is ambiguous, conditioned by their reaction to each other's interpretation of the events in the reflected material. At points chosen by the individual pianists, the flow is interrupted by cadenzas, the flights.

Flights was composed in 1967 and given its first performance that year by Roger Smalley and Steven Savage at a BBC Invitation Concert. It lasts between 22 and 28 minutes.