Work Details

Large Ensemble
16 minutes

Commissioned by the London Sinfonietta, supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, The Fenton Arts Trust, Musicians Benevolent Fund and Harold Hyam Wingate Trust Foundation.


fl(=picc), ob, cl(, s.sax, bsn(=cbsn), hn, tpt, tbn, pno, hp, perc, 2 vln, vla, vc & cb

Programme Note

As someone who has always been a light sleeper I am no stranger to full nights of insomnia. This can take different forms, from calm acceptance to hellish frustration. Insomniac is made up of three short movements exploring some of these states in-between sleep and wakefulness.

Often when I am stressed or have a lot of work to do I can spend the night with my mind flitting anxiously between various incoherent, inconclusive situations, attempting to make sense of issues of the day. The first movement is driven by nervous energy from the outset, striving to establish some regularity or calm but becoming increasingly agitated, darting between different materials.

During the course of writing this work I spent some time in the Swedish island Gotland where I experienced for the first time the (almost) continual sunlight they receive during summer. After sunset there remains a calming and mysterious, bright glow in the sky that confuses your ability to judge the hour. This of course heavily affected my sleeping patterns and made me realise just how much our bodies rely on light to tell us how we should be feeling. The second movement is inspired by my time in Gotland - with a much more subdued character and gently limping rhythms, I explore the often surreal state of mind experienced at the peripheries of consciousness.

The final movement is concerned with insomnia caused by other external influences - such as a neighbour having an all-night party. It is boisterous and wild in nature but, as with the other movements, focused by a frustrating obsessiveness.

Past Performances

29 July 2011
Kings Place, London
London Sinfonietta
Pierre-André Valade

5 November 2011
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
London Sinfonietta
Martyn Brabbins

3 September 2012
Geertekerk, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Asko | Schönberg
Etienne Siebens

25 October 2013
Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney, Austalia
Modern Music Ensemble