Black Snow Falls

Laurence Osborn

  • Duration

    17 mins

  • Year of composition


  • Number of performers


  • First performance

    The Outcry Ensemble, St John’s Notting Hill, 27th April 2017, and Temple Church

  • Commissioned by
    Outcry Ensemble


Black Snow Falls takes its name from one of the final lines of Sarah Kane's play 4.48 Psychosis, which was completed in 1999 and premiered posthumously in 2000. 4.48 Psychosis is a first person account of the clinical depression that Kane was suffering from while writing it. Kane committed suicide shortly after finishing the play, and subsequently, the play has been interpreted as a long-form suicide note - especially because there are no allocated characters, and no discernible plot.

The three words "black snow falls", to my mind, are an extraordinarily vivid metaphor for suicidal depression. The surreal image of "black snow", brings into focus, for me, ideas of destruction and/or decay particularly because of the image's likeness to ash or soot. But the line's reference to meteorology also suggests a terrifying powerlessness from the perspective of the author - the weather is, like illnesses of the mind and body, something that we are unable to control.

If there is one idea binding my piece together, it is the idea of powerlessness. At the opening of the piece, you will hear fragments of stunted material - written to sound like yelps or cries - which attempt to coalesce into a whole before falling apart again. These fragments of material determine virtually all of the music of the piece - they are warped, distorted, placed in sequence, but never manage to develop in a meaningful way. At the end of the piece, they are overwhelmed and finally suffocated by a sequence of chords on lower strings.

Full Scoring:

10 Violins
5 Violas
5 Violoncellos
3 Double Basses

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