Research Output


  The research aims of this piece were to explore a tempo grid, using tempo ratios to construct a complex metrical texture in conjunction with the use of quotation to create formal outline to each movement.

The tempo grid (seven tempi, related by simple ratios) was intimately bound up to the instrumentation of the piece, with each instrument being associated with two different tempi. Each movement represents different 'moves' around the grid and different combinations of tempi. Although most of these simultaneous tempi are rendered in the score by the employment of rational metrical subdivisions (e.g. 5:4), there are a number of occasions where solos or duos follow a pulse independently from the rest of the ensemble.

The structure of each movement is also bound up in a 'narrative' concerning a famous love story. The first movement overlays different 'panels' depicting episodes from the story of Tristan and Isolde, and was derived from the key scenes from Wagner's opera, and Debussy's parody of the 'Tristan chord' from The Golliwog's Cake Walk). The second movement depicts versions of successive scenes in Berg's opera, Lulu, with each scene depicting the death of each of the central character's husbands. The third movement is more abstract and treats themes taken from works on the theme of Romeo and Juliet in a scheme of intricate mensural canons, bound together in a ritornello form. The combination of formal outlines, quotation and the metric grid aims to create an exciting tension, just as the use of complex rhythms and microtones creates a dangerous soundworld on the verge of nervous collapse.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    20 February 2003

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher


  • Library of Congress:

    M1 Music

  • Funders:

    This commission, to write a twelve-minute piece for the London Sinfonietta to be performed in 2003, was the first prize of the 2002 Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize, with the instrumentation specified in the terms of the commission.


Hails, J. (2003). Lovesongs. London, UK



Orchestral concert piece; Three movements; Inspired by operatic love stories; London Sinfonietta; BBC Radio 3;

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