scoring: piccolo and piano
status: available for performance
First performance: Purcell Room, London, Mark Underwood and the composer, 4 Jan 2003
In many mountainous parts of the world, whistling is the only means of communication across impassible ravines. Silbo is the name given to this 'language' in the Canary Islands; the name neatly combines the idea of whistling and the notion of syllables. It is of course not a language at all, but a system of signals, comparable to the bugle calls of the military and the use of the boatswain's pipe at sea. A number of short rhythmic patterns and a fragment of dance music are connected to form a line, and central to the idea of the music is the contrast of high pitched sounds competing with the wind, and echoing among mountains and valleys; repeated, half-heard, disappearing into a vast silence.
The revision after the 2003 performance is thought to have been only to the piano part.
Programme note from the programme for the first performance.