Water is an 18-minute work for a distinctive instrumental set up, first performed and recorded in 2014 by the Australian Chamber Orchestra as part of Greenwood’s Sydney residency with them. The piece is inspired by the closing lines of Philip Larkin’s poem of the same name from The Whitsun Weddings: “Where any-angled light / Would congregate endlessly”. 2022 is Larkin’s centenary year.
Strings provide a whispering background of ostinato figures and patterns, against which a concertante group of two flutes and violin weave solo lines. This in turn is backed by an amplified upright piano doubling chamber organ or keyboard sampler. One or two tanpuras provide yet another harmonic and melodic underlay, playing semi-improvised patterns that coordinate and diverge from the main ensemble at different points in the piece. Greenwood himself has played tanpura onstage in a number of the 50 or so performances to date.
In October the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Richard Tognetti will perform Water at London’s Barbican Centre, as well as Greenwood’s music from There Will Be Blood. In that concert Water provides live musical accompaniment to Jennifer Peedom’s documentary River, narrated by Willem Dafoe, which examines the shaping force water has had on landscapes and lives. Gordon Bragg and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra stream a performance of the piece in April 2023 as part of their 22/23 digital season.