In Black Bright Ink
Shall time’s best jewel from time’s chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O, none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.”
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 65
The piece focuses on the gradual development of a simple oscillating figure first heard in the lowest octave of the piano. These deep notes dominate the texture of the piece – indeed the left hand of the piano never leaves the lowest octave at any point. The opening sounds also informed the choice of instruments: the cello and bass clarinet complement the dark tones of the piano and only the violin plays higher pitches.
As the piece develops, fragments of melody gradually appear in the cello and bass clarinet, before passing on to the violin. In the final section, the oscillating figuration breaks down, leaving a skeletal series of chords with higher harmonics emerging from them.
In Black Bright Ink is dedicated to Jackie and Stephen Newbould.
Commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group with financial assistance from Arts Council England and the following individuals through BCMG’s Sound Investment scheme: Viv and Hazel Astling, Paul Bond, Allan and Pat Brookfield, Alan S Carr, Christopher Carrier, Simon Collings, Alan B Cook, Kath England, Anne P Fletcher, Tarik O’Regan, Stephen and Jackie Newbould, Frank and June North, Kim and Kay Prior, Maureen and William Scott, and Michael and Sandra Squires.
“Luke Bedford’s In Black Bright Ink brought a mesmeric crepuscular stillness” – Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post
“Luke Bedford‘s new work In Bright Black Ink went deeper, darker and packed the most emotionally potent punch of the evening. With the exception of the violin, every instrument remains in its lowest registers, articulating an accelerating series of heavy, heartfelt sighs, founded upon a small oscillating motif in the piano. These sighs are embellished and coloured in diverse ways, given warmth from the bass clarinet through variations of tremolo, tonguing and timbral trill, deprived of warmth in vibrato-less icy threads from violin and cello. The sighs, dying away, slowly turn to surging groans, making the music audibly ache, whereupon an unsettling repeated high note from the piano precipitates an eerie end on a high harmonic. It was a strange but extremely eloquent and immediate highlight in a concert tinged throughout with tones of melancholy.” Simon Cummings, 5against4.com
Luke Bedford was born in 1978 and studied composition at the Royal College of Music with Edwin Roxburgh and Simon Bainbridge. His works range from chamber groups (e.g. the string quartet Of the Air), to ensemble, sometimes with voice (BCMG Sound Investment commission Good Dream She Has and Or Voit Tout En Aventure) and to full orchestra (Outblaze the Sky, Wreathe).
Tom Service wrote of Or Voit Tout en Aventure, that is was “one of the most outstanding pieces by any young composer I’ve ever experienced – music of brooding expressive intensity and charged with that indefinable quality that makes a piece sound as if it was written out of sheer necessity.”
Bedford was the recipient of a prestigious Paul Hamlyn Artists’ Award in 2007, and in 2008 Wreathe won a British Composer Award. 2010 saw the world première of At Three and Two by the Hallé Orchestra. Bedford’s first opera – Seven Angels, based on Milton’s Paradise Lost – was premièred in 2011 by the Opera Group and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.
Bedford was the first ever composer in residence at the Wigmore Hall in London, which has earned him several commissions, including the string quartet_ Nine Little Boxes, All Carefully Packed_ (2011).
In Feburary 2012 Wonderful Two-Headed Nightingale was given its world première by the Scottish Ensemble. Bedford was awarded the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung Composer’s Prize in music in the same year, and the world premières of Wonderful No-Headed Nightingale and Three Intermezzi took place.
On 28 October 2013, the Arditti String Quartet performed the world première of Wonderful Four-Headed Nightingale for string quartet at Wien Modern.
In 2014, his highly acclaimed opera Through His Teeth was premièred at the Royal Opera House.