Research Output

Der Heimat zu.

  This piano piece is written using a floating, non-functional tonal language that recalls the other composers featured in the programme, while remaining recognisably modern. It also conveys a sense of 'broken time', of scrambled perception and of a fight against dissolution. 'Broken time' replaces linear temporal progressions with a randomised jumble of self-similar moments. In music, this can result in a blurring of harmonic areas over long periods of time, creating a hallucinatory confusion between vertical and horizontal, and memory and experience. The sense of unending and illogical time in Beckett's Malone Dies was a powerful inspiration. The bravery and desperation of Barrett's Beckett-inspired works was also (though more indirectly) important, as was Henze's short text on his piano concerto Tristan.

The source materials for this piece were two songs by Franz Schubert, in transcriptions for solo piano by Franz Liszt: Die junge Nonne and Meerstille. For each piece, the melody was separated from the accompaniment and then reordered each element independently using a set of random numbers. In the first movement (derived from Die junge Nonne), the disordered accompanying figuration produces a hallucinatory reminiscence of F minor, above which the nervous melodic line seeks a sense of home. In the second movement (derived from Meerstille), the arpeggiated chords of the original become threatening and illogical between confused swirls of figuration.

Maintaining the sense of melody against accompaniment became an important part of work on the piece, as did maintaining the tension between the sense of sameness and dissolution produced by the scrambled harmonies, and a feeling of progression and development.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    12 July 2001

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    M1 Music

  • Funders:

    This piece was requested by the Cheltenham International Festival of Music for a recital to be given by the pianist Yan Lim. It was to be written without complex rhythms, to sit alongside music by Ravel and Schubert.


Hails, J. (2001). Der Heimat zu. Cheltenham, UK



Piano music; Concert piece;

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