CONTRACTIONS by Anne-Marie O’Farrell
Contractions, written for large symphony orchestra, is in a type of double variation form. Its structure is based on the shifting balance between proportions of time, and on the contrast between opposing states of being as experienced prior to giving birth: the state of pain initially lasts a very short time and is interpolated by spells without pain, during which one is free to reflect or to summon energy for the next contraction. With the passage of time the balance between these two shifts to its opposite, whereby contractions become longer and more intense, while resting periods become shorter and offer less opportunity for introspection.
This is reflected not only in the proportional lengths of sections within the work, but it is also used to determine harmonic and rhythmic movement within sections. Timbral features, balances and contrasts are also based on the principle of shifting proportions between opposites. At a climactic point in the piece, clear reference is made to a phrase from S. Bodley’s song cycle, A Girl, which alludes to the strangeness of familiar things. This is an expression of the otherness of the world one briefly inhabits when circumstances such as giving birth cause a total shift in one’s consciousness.