timmi & friends (or 76 instances of the word ‘home’)

Premiered on the 4th May 2016 by The Glasgow New Music Expedition, conducted by Jessica Cottis, during the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s PLUG Festival. A live recording is available to listen to below.

Instrumentation:

Flute (doubling piccolo)
Clarinet in B-flat
Bassoon (doubling contrabassoon)
Horn in F
Trumpet in B-flat
Trombone
Percussion (one player) (glockenspiel, marimba, 2 woodblocks, 4 temple blocks, large suspended cymbal, mounted tambourine, 2 roto-toms, 2 toms)
Piano
Violin
Viola
Violoncello
Double Bass
Laptop (doubling large suspended cymbal)

Duration: c.9 minutes

Programme Note:

timmi & friends (or 76 instances of the word ‘home’) came about as a result of me being asked to write a piece inspired by the SCP Foundation, a fictional organization responsible for containing entities, locations, and objects that violate natural law (referred to as SCPs). More specifically, I was to write a piece based on one existing SCP. I found selecting a SCP very challenging – their individual entries on the SCP website are written in a deliberately unromantic and academic style, so creating an artistic response felt rather forced. I soon found myself googling ‘sad SCPs’ in an attempt to find an article (amongst the thousands that exist) that I would be able to take inspiration from more easily. My search led me to SCP-1192, a seven-year-old boy trapped in the body of a cockatoo. SCP-1192 communicates with researchers, in the aviary where he is contained by the Foundation, by using his feet to scrawl crude sentences with a pencil. He tells the researches that his name is “timmi” and that he “wana go hom” to his human family. Timmi’s life in the aviary is miserable and he spends his days repeatedly writing the words “mom” and “home”.

It seemed obvious to me that the article on SCP-1192 was written to elicit an emotional response from the reader, one of sadness and sympathy. It is unfair that Timmi doesn’t get the love he yearns for, after all. This got me thinking about how often non-human animals are presented to us as protagonists, particularly in books and films aimed at children, and how easy it is for us to sympathise with them. However, as a species, we are desperate to remain comfortably unaware of the very real suffering of billions of animals exploited in the food industry every year who, like Timmi, are much more intelligent and sensitive than they may appear.

With reference to both the fictional and real victims of animal exploitation, this piece is suggesting that we need to think harder about the roles that non-human animals play in our lives.

(The image features a photo of ‘SCP-1192 in containment’, from scp-wiki.net/scp-1192, as well as an image taken during an investigation carried out by Animal Equality into farms owned by East Anglian Pig Company, the third largest producer of pig flesh in the UK. A video documenting Animal Equality’s investigation can be viewed here.)