Composed over a period of six months, ‘Stray’ represents my first attempt for many years at a piece for a member of the brass family. Whilst not wanting to under-play or devalue the great beauty of the instrument’s mellow, clear tone – the classic ‘horn sound’ – I was keen to find a timbral palette which showed a richer, more complex side of the French horn. The title (“to travel along a route that was not originally intended”) is a kind of summation of the energy of the material, which forms a restless, constantly digressing line, a kind of stream-of-consciousness ‘utterance’. Here, the surface of the piece shifts with such rapidity that meaningful connections are initially difficult to discern, though one gesture (a ringing, bell-like figuration) will become increasingly important as the work continues. Abrupt halts in the flow of material often suggest a discontinuous timeline – nowhere more so than at the work’s close, a coda which seems only tangentially (but still, tangentially) related to that which came before.

Andrew Budden – French Horn

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