The word [Panopticon] generally refers to an 18th-century prison design in which cells were arranged around a circular central chamber from where a governor could keep an eye on prisoners at all times. In Fennessy’s piece, the cimbalom becomes the governor at the heart of a string ensemble arranged in a semicircle. Every hammer stroke sets off a ripple, like a stone dropping into water, and when the ripple reaches the rest of the ensemble they reflect it back and magnify the sound. The cimbalom dictates everything about the music: the pulse, the dynamics, even the harmony, because the ensemble’s notes are derived from the cimbalom’s natural harmonics. Fennessy describes “living in the world of the piece, opening up the overtones and climbing inside them, everything becoming heightened, everything getting magnified and kaleidoscopic. I have this image of the cimbalom string as six metres in diameter.” The enveloping simplicity, the total commitment to concept without losing track of the humanity – it’s classic Fennessy. – Kate Molleson
This piece is part of PRS Foundation's New Music Biennial 2019.
Commissioned by Psappha and Hebrides Ensemble.
Panopticon was recorded at Stoller Hall, Manchester on 2-5 June 2018.
DAVID LEFEBER Recording Engineer & Producer