Calculus of the Nervous System

for orchestra (2011)

3(fl.3 dbl. picc.).3(ob.3 dbl. ca.).3(cl.3 dbl. bcl.).3(bsn.3 dbl. cbsn.)/ perc.(3)/hp./

Duration: 14'

Commissioned by Wien Modern 2011

World première: Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra / cond. James MacMillan, Wiener Konzerthaus, Vienna, Austria, 20th November 2011 (broadcast ORF Ö1 November 2011)

UK première: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra / cond. Andris Nelsons, BBC Proms 2012, Royal Albert Hall, London, UK, 21st August 2012 (broadcast BBC R3 August & September 2012)


"...Calculus presented an absorbing mix of stealth, suggestion and surprise – its tremulous opening punctuated by silences like a sequence of abortive starts, and its final measures sounding like a sequence of abortive endings, but engineered ... with winning confidence and craft. I was impressed."

Michael White, The Telegraph

"Ein Werk, das man wegen seiner unglaublichen Einprägsamkeit beim zweiten Mal Hören sicher sofort wieder erkennen wird."
"A work which because of its incredible memorability will be instantly recognizable on a second hearing."

Michaela Preiner (transl. Andrea Rauter) www.european-cultural-news.com

"This was a piece that really made you listen, and drew you in, and its 15 minutes seemed to pass in an instant. Whether intentionally or not, the quietness also focused attention onto the noises of the typically restless Proms audience, with moments that were so quietly enrapturing that none of the audience's vast number dared so much as breathe."

Matthew Lynch, www.bachtrack.com

"Calculus ... forms the final part of a triptych inspired by the work of Ada Lovelace (1815-52), a daughter of Byron and a noted mathematician. One of Lovelace's aims was the creation of a mathematical model that demonstrated how the brain gives rise to thoughts, and Howard, in response, scrutinises the nature of memory as tone clusters and percussive throbs shift in and out of focus."

Tim Ashley, The Guardian

"tension was maintained through 12 minutes of focused intensity before the music tumbled back into silence."

Nick Kimberley, London Evening Standard

"... profoundly atmospheric, where something always seemed about to happen. It started and ended in near silence, except that the real impression was that the music continued for ever ... a fascinating and tantalising piece; one which was superbly rendered by Nelsons and the CBSO."

Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill