The original inspiration for The Serious Side of Madness came from looking at the works of Hogarth. I was particularly influenced by how Hogarth captures aspects of society in a light-hearted but serious way – hence the title. The piece is based on various scenes and images which are loosely related to each other, and falls into four sections. Sections 1 and 2 are based on the first and second groups of material respectively, Section 3 develops the material, and Section 4 is an extended coda. However, there is much overlap between both the material and the sections.
The opening section describes a mass of people, such as one might find at Victoria Station during rush hour! I found it interesting how hundreds of people in a situation like this seem to take on one ‘mass personality’. Later on, individual characters begin to emerge – first in the clarinets, then in the oboes, and finally the piccolo and flute. These are caricatures of the various types of people you might meet in today’s society. In Section 3 these characters are developed, along with further characters introduced by the Horns and the Bassoons.
Section 2 is completely contrasting, describing the world without people. There is a feeling of gradual growth throughout, as the world comes to life. The concluding section is a scene of a man wandering through the streets of London reflecting on society and the world.
The Serious Side of Madness was written for the Kensington Chamber Orchestra as part of the Adopt a Composer scheme, funded by the PRSF and run by spnm in association with Making Music. The première took place in June 2008 at St Peter’s, Notting Hill.