accidental counterpoints

Sally Burgess The Smith Quartet

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Daryl Runswick's accidental counterpoints (1998) is a cycle of five songs for female voice and string quartet with texts by the composer: four loosely-constructed sonnets and a villanelle. The melodic and harmonic components of the music are entirely derived from cells consisting of the first three notes of the minor scale (doh, ray, mi-flat) arranged into various modes and gamuts. Musical forms are relatively simple, dictated by the shapes of the poems; however some melodic matrices, canonic, process and scafra devices are used where appropriate. The score is written in a mixture of conventional and aleatoric notations. accidental counterpoints was commissioned by and is dedicated to Catherine Pierard.


[ 1 ]   

over breakfast he said

'making love to you –
when I am closest to you –
that is when I feel the most alone

because, no matter what
we are always, everywhere, alone'

as if the act of love
were final proof of separation
as if loving
was evasion, hypocracy
as if I can never, ever, be close to him
as if we can never say what we mean

as if, no matter what
we are always, everywhere, alone


[ 2 ]   

in Limassol Zoo a dozen big cats laze, yawn and bicker
this is not their country; they prowl, preen, lie listless,
prowl again: three paces, turn, three paces
dreaming of elsewhere, elsewhere

on London Bridge myriad commuters jostle and swarm
strange interior silence of a crowd
faces shut off, bodies bent on some urgent goal
off-screen, elsewhere, elsewhere

but in crystal waters a thousand dazzling fish
dart, spiral, swim in stunning unison

here onstage a string quartet
nonchalantly makes accidental counterpoint

wings pulsing in an ice-blue sky, a cloud of starlings wheels
in V-formation: what does it feel like to be the bird in front?


[ 3 ]   

what's real? this – choose anything – this – is it real?
what we're playing – this – that – was it real?
where's it gone?

what's real? the lost Leonardo
the re-discovered figurine – whose mind were they in
all these years? did they exist? where?

life passes by like a parade
we look away (perhaps we are somewhere else)

memory – we watch like a movie
a face – it floats and fades

what's real? I believe this so it's real – really?
I would make a stand for this, so it's real
– do you say so?

but we act on our prejudices without thinking

is this real? is this real for you? is this really real?


[ 4 ]   

I have this memory of childhood:
on the creosoted fence, hundreds of them –
daddy-longlegs, teetering, prancing

what happens when you pull a wing off?
do the legs pull off too?
what to do with the little worm left wriggling?

dark smell of stained wood and
    all the unforgivable things ever since
    said and done to people's hurt

hundreds of daddy-longlegs
squash them against the fence, a dozen at a time
or grab one by the wing, watch it struggle –

one-winged flight, is it possible?
    forgiveness – how, with a wing missing?

[ 5 ]   

we jerk and prance, dangling on wires from a frame
marionettes, we nod and leap at the puppeteer's tilt
Desire Narcotic Aflame is the puppeteer's nickname

bored with a love that stays too safe or too long the same
we plunge into affairs, drowning, up to the hilt
we posture, dance, dangling on wires from a frame

the fabric of our love, loose-wove, soft, warm, became
a ripped rag, spoiled, the rending of a quilt
Death Never Alone is the puppeteer's nickname

damage done without a glance, no prick of shame
thoughtless or careless whether blood is spilt
we preen, romance, dangling on wires from a frame

or, balking at the danger, old love reclain
expect forgiveness as a right, no prod of guilt –
Dickhead Naked Annihilate is the puppeteer's nickname

from conquest to conquest the sad procession, game after game
on and on till there's no-one left to jilt
we jerk and prance, dangling on wires from a frome
Desire Narcotic Aflame is the puppeteer's nickname





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Recorded at Blackheath Concert Halls, London, December 2006.
Engineer Kit Venables. Produced by Daryl Runswick.

All these texs, compositions and recordings are covered by copyright.