Research Output

The Cold Dancer.

  The work’s starting-point and source of inspiration is the poem, A Reel of Seven Fishermen by the Orcadian poet, George Mackay Brown and the music is structured closely around the form and ideas found in the poem. In the early stages of the work, the four Elements assert a powerful influence over the nature of the music, as they do in reality. As the work progresses, sounds of distant psalm-singing are mixed with echoes of the fiddle tunes that are played on days of celebration. This gathering collage of memories forms the main part of the work and spans the past, present and future turmoil of the three principal characters. The work concludes in a mood of sombre reflection.

The nature of the music itself reflects the parallel of two time-lines: for the two women in the poem, time passes slowly as they prepare for the fisherman’s homecoming; but for the fisherman time is going ‘fast-forward’ and in ‘rewind’ as flashes of future hopes form an intense collage with remembrances from the past. This ‘layered simultaneity’ lies at the heart of the music and the way the musical material and the four instruments of the quartet relate.

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    M1 Music

  • Funders:

    Commissioned by the Edinburgh Quartet


Dempster, K. (2004). The Cold Dancer



Quartet; Strings; One movement; Scottish influences;

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