Insomnia for Violin and Piano John Pickard
In 1997 I was asked by the violinist Oliver Lewis to write him a piece and Insomnia was the result. The commission was funded by the Arts Council.
The title came while I was in the middle of writing the work. It seemed to sum up the restless quality of the music, the way it tends to alight on tiny details and develop them obsessively, in the same way that a sleepless night often finds the mind picking up a stray thought and worrying at it until it is inflated to massive dimensions.
The piece alternates two types of music at two distinct, but related, speeds. The first is fairly slow and free; the second faster and more rhythmic. These pairs are heard three times, with the slow music tending to dominate to begin with and the fast music appearing more as an interruption. With the third cycle, the functions are reversed: the slow music acts more as an introduction to a much-extended fast section, which eventually reaches a climactic statement, before closing with a reference to the very opening.
Insomnia was premiered by Oliver Lewis and the pianist Andrew Zollinsky on 3 March 1998 in St David’s Hall, Cardiff.