What Wild Ecstasy

In 2012, What Wild Ecstasy was Mark Baldwin’s modern-day take on Nijinsky’s 100 year old L’Après-midi d’un faune, and was set to a score by Gavin Higgins, commissioned as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

‘When I was approached to write a new score to sit alongside Debussy’s masterpiece, it soon became clear that it would not be a partner piece, nor a modern day version, but rather a reaction to all the work’s incarnations: Mallarmé’s poem, Debussy’s music and Nijinsky’s choreography. I drew from the Pan myth, John Keats’ 1819 poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn (from which the title comes), Acid House music with its hedonistic home in the underground rave scene, plus the numerous artistic images inspired by the lascivious shenanigans of mythological fauns.

‘Professor Nicola Clayton and I also discussed a possible link to notions of sexual selection hidden in the material. Until now, I have mainly written for larger and/or more homogenous ensembles, so to be asked to write a piece for such a mixed ensemble of instruments was an interesting challenge. Much of my time has been spent shaping the ensemble into a sort of ‘pit band’, dominated by wind and brass. The score is structured in three sections consisting of a series of musical outbursts that fly by one after another.

‘Material from previous sections bleed into the next, driving relentlessly and sometimes manically forward. Though there are moments of stillness they are soon superseded by brassy growls and rhythmic dances.’

Gavin Higgins composer                 

What Wild Ecstasy from NMC Recordings.

Dancers: Miguel Altunaga, Eryck Brahmania, Lucia Barbadillo, Otis-Cameron Carr, Antonette Dayrit, Julia Gillespie, Robin Gladwin, Jonathan Goddard, Dane Hurst, Vanessa Kang, Mark Kimmett, Estela Merlos, Mbulelo Ndabeni, Gemma Nixon, Patricia Okenwa, Adam Park, Hannah Rudd, Jon Savage, Pieter Symonds, Stephen Wright.

'It is saucy and knowing and enjoyable, and splendidly danced'

Financial Times

Mark Baldwin
Gavin Higgins
Michael Howells
Lighting design:
Sid Ellen

World premiere by Rambert at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, 15 February 2012.

'A joyous crescendo of colour and energy'

Independent on Sunday

PRFS logo New Music 20x12

New Music 20×12 was a UK-wide commissioning programme consisting of twenty new pieces of music, each of 12 minutes in length, celebrating the talent and imagination of the UK’s musical community as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. New Music 20×12 brought together a fascinating line-up of composers, performers and organisations to put new music at the heart of the Cultural Olympiad and is an exhilarating snapshot of new music which took place across the UK through 2012, and at the Southbank Centre on one weekend in July. The brainchild of Jillian Barker and David Cohen who wanted to put new music at the heart of the Olympic celebrations, it was delivered by PRS for Music Foundation in partnership with BBC Radio 3, London 20×12 and NMC Recordings, and others.

Julia Gillespie & Jon Savage in What Wild Ecstasy (2012)

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