Always Ever Unknowable (2016)

Always, Ever Unknowable uses a text by Helene Grøn based on the life and works of Lord Kelvin. The musical material was derived from my musical interpretation of John Stewart Bell’s work, a quantum physicist and my great uncle.

The piece is divided into seven sections with each using a different combination of the three ensembles with the trombones surrounding the audience to enable the music to both move around and engulf the audience.

Commissioned by Cottier Chamber Project.


The moment before creation

Finite, you as I

Always, ever unknowable.

You imagine it

In the hands of the Lord.

And your imagination won’t go

Of science.

That far back

Time, change created

To that temporal boundary of science.

Your father, your mother, you.

The initial condition of the universe.

With numeric valour

Before, before and now.

My granddad, my dad and me

Equals three.


On opposite sides of the riverbank

Two men:

William Thomson – Before, before

and now, Lord Kelvin
William Thomson:

My father laid my footsteps before me,

But I feel a tuck at the bottom of my shoes:

My own way.


Must I follow what came before?

Lord Kelvin:

I took my name from the river, son,

Jump in find your stream to swim.

Time, change created: before, before and now.


Atlantic cable.

The old world and the new

Only as far apart as a riverbank

The world shrinks, tides turn.

When we see a mirror wavering in a room in Ireland

Only opposite sides of a riverbank.

What wild imagination would think the movement was caused

Only opposite sides of a riverbank.

By a silent operation on the shores of Newfoundland?

The world shrinks, tides turn,

Before, before and now.