Boom of the Tingling Strings

for Piano and Orchestra


Based on the poem Piano by D.H. Lawrence (1918)

“Dedicated to Paul Mann with great affection and gratitude”

3(III=picc).2.2.2.- (glsp, crot, xyl, tri, sus cym, cym, tam-t, tamb, SD, BD, marac, wb, sand block, slap stick)-hp.cel.str.

Duration 36’ (9’, 6’, 7’, 14’)

World Premiere: Brisbane City Hall, 15 February 2003
Michael Kieran Harvey, piano; Queensland Orchestra; Paul Mann, conductor

European Premiere: Printemps Musical Festival, Luxembourg, 31 May 2003
Michael Kieran Harvey, piano; Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra;
Paul Mann, conductor

Recording: Nelson Goerner, piano; Odense Symphony Orchestra; Paul Mann, conductor (EMI 3905282, with Disguises, 2008.)

Publisher: Schott Music Enterprise GmbH

Full score and parts available on hire

Piano (1918) by D.H. Lawrence

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cozy parlor, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

Jon Lord’s note:
I began this piece after reading Lawrence‘s splendid poem late in 1998. The poem’s depiction of a small boy sitting under the piano in “the boom of the tingling strings” – a wonderful phrase – had an enormously strong resonance with my own memories of childhood, and, in the first movement, I wanted to describe the same nostalgic yearning for a vanished, maybe rose-tinted, past.

What follows might be seen to depict my journey forward from there, with occasional fond backward glances, towards a world beyond Lawrence’s “flood of remembrance”, and his weeping for the past. Although prone to that myself, I wanted to end in a more hopeful and joyous world where one perhaps learns from the past rather than living in it.


After the piece was finished and had been performed twice, (first in Brisbane in February 2003 with pianist Michael Kieran Harvey and The Queensland Orchestra conducted by Paul Mann, the second time in Luxembourg in May with Michael and Paul again and The Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg) I was made aware of the earlier version of the poem, below, which seems to justify my decision to end the concerto with positive hope in an uncertain future, and with “the great black piano” racing towards a joyful clamorous ending.

The Piano by D.H. Lawrence (Early version)

Somewhere beneath that piano’s superb sleek black
Must hide my mother’s piano, little and brown with the back
That stood close to the wall, and the front’s faded silk, both torn
And the keys with little hollows, that my mother’s fingers had worn.
Softly, in the shadows, a woman is singing to me
Quietly, through the years I have crept back to see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the shaking strings
Pressing the little poised feet of the mother who smiles as she sings
The full throated woman has chosen a winning, living song

And surely the heart that is in me must belong
To the old Sunday evenings, when darkness wandered outside
And hymns gleamed on our warm lips, as we watched mother’s fingers glide
Or this is my sister at home in the old front room
Singing love’s first surprised gladness, alone in the gloom.
She will start when she sees me, and blushing, spread out her hands
To cover my mouth’s raillery, till I’m bound in her shame’s heart-spun bands
A woman is singing me a wild Hungarian air
And her arms, and her bosom and the whole of her soul is bare
And the great black piano is clamouring as my mother’s never could clamour
And the tunes of the past are devoured of this music’s ravaging glamour.

A note from Paul Mann:
Boom of the Tingling Strings remains a very special work for me. It was typical of Jon that, with a bottle of Cristal ready and waiting to celebrate its completion, he somewhat nervously asked if I might accept the dedication, as if I would actually have said no. The piece was already taking shape during the 2000 Concerto tour, and he was finding that he couldn’t make progress on its composition while on the endless treadmill between airport and hotel and gig. It therefore very largely provided the impetus for Jon to make his final decision to leave Deep Purple.

The three-year gestation of Boom of the Tingling Strings also covers the period during which we became closer as friends, and for this reason, especially at a distance now of more than ten years, I hear it as a kind of diary.

His technique for writing large-scale pieces was to assemble material which only gradually found its place in the finished work. One day, a walk in the Chilterns provided some rather unexpected inspiration. On the outward journey, he opened an old iron gate which squeaked three notes at him. On the way back, he pushed the gate in the opposite direction and produced three more. At home, he combined the two motifs to make the opening melody of Boom’s slow movement. The wistfully nostalgic heart of this entirely tonal work might therefore provide an entirely new definition of what is derisively known in the trade as “squeaky-gate music”.

For the first time, this work is now available in a transcription for two pianos to make it more accessible to soloists. The material will be published by Schott. Four sample pages, the first of each of the four movements, are reprinted here for perusal. Please contact us for further information.
(October 2012)

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