Panufnik Legacies III: Michael Taplin

Following the recent release of the third album in the Panufnik Legacies series, which features brand new music from alumni of the LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme, we asked the composers themselves to tell us a little more about their experience writing for and recording with the Orchestra.

Michael Taplin


'The initial inspiration for Ebbing Tides came from a very early morning walk (between 3 and 4am!) by the shoreline on the beach in Aldeburgh. It was in the summer of 2013 when I was participating in a composer course there. The silence from the absence of human activity at such an early hour in the morning enabled me to hear with great intensity the sound of the waves advancing and receding. Listening back to Ebbing Tides now I can hear how this experience informed my music. The sensation of subtle movement within a still frame pervades the atmosphere of the piece.'

How does Ebbing Tides work?

'The piece is structured around a gently breathing, in and out gesture like waves hitting the shoreline. In sync with the core motif the music moves forwards and backwards in the orchestra throughout the piece. For example, right at the beginning of this piece the first chord is heard in the inside players of the second violins and violas before gradually moving forward towards the outside players of the first violins. This process is repeated throughout the piece. 

Ebbing Tides treats the orchestra as one large breathing organism. This is achieved through several orchestration rules I created when writing it. All entries in the piece are subtle and are carefully written to ensure they are imperceptible. Attention is particularly paid to where pitches are placed within a given instrument’s range. For example, the high, lyrical register of the bassoon blends particularly well with the lower register of the flutes. In the woodwind section, there is also an oscillation between the purer sounds of the flutes and clarinets and the reed instruments which are more nasal, oboes and bassoons. The strings are present throughout the whole piece and provide a useful bridge between various woodwind and brass instruments. Within the string writing there is also subtle variation of colours which include techniques such as sul ponticello, tremoli and trills. Subtle weight is also placed on the peaks of crescendi with the delicate thud of quiet timpani dyads and gentle rolls on the vibraphones and marimba.'  

A reflection on my experience of the Panufnik Scheme 

'Writing Ebbing Tides was my first experience of working with a professional orchestra. I was initially accepted on the Panufnik Scheme in 2014. For the first workshop I was asked to create a piece for orchestra three and a half minutes in duration. I remember finding the gestation period for (K)NOT (a short piece which was to be the blueprint for Ebbing Tides) a struggle. I had many false starts and discarded much of the material which I felt was just not right. Colin Matthews provided invaluable assistance during this time helping me to focus my ideas and assisted me with various technical questions. Finally, I wrote what became the final piece in about three weeks. The first workshop I felt was largely successful (given the daunting task at hand) but I felt the piece lacked a satisfactory ending and could benefit from additional detail particularly with regards to the orchestration. When I was fortunate enough to receive the five minute commission a few months later I was delighted to be afforded the opportunity to address my concerns and set about re-writing the whole piece from the beginning with an extended final section. I am now currently writing a new piece for the CBSO and am finding the techniques I developed for Ebbing Tides an invaluable starting point for this new endeavour.'
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Listen to Michael Taplin's Ebbing Tides on Apple Music now

Panufnik Legacies III Album CoverPanufnik Legacies III

Each year the LSO's Panufnik Composers Scheme gives six composers the chance to write for a world-class symphony orchestra, under the guidance of our Principal Guest Conductor Francois-Xavier Roth and composers Colin Matthews and Christian Mason. Launched in 2005, the scheme was devised in association with Lady Camilla Panufnik to celebrate the musical legacy left behind by her husband, Sir Andrzej Panufnik, and to give new generations of composers new opportunities to develop their skills. Since then, over 80 composers have participated and the Orchestra has released several albums showcasing the work of these incredible new talents.

The third album in our Panufnik Legacies series features new music from Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Ewan Campbell, Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, Donghoon Shin, Alex Roth, Matthew Sergeant, Patrick Giguère, Sasha Siem, Bethan Morgan-Williams, Michael Taplin, Benjamin Ashby & Joanna Lee.

This recording has been generously supported by The Boltini Trust. The LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme is generously supported by Lady Hamlyn and The Helen Hamlyn Trust.

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