Dart (2012)

Nominated for the British Composers Awards 2013, Sonic Art Category

Dart was written for the New York cellist Madeleine Shapiro as part of Earth Day 2012 celebrations and her ongoing Nature Project; this is one of a series of compositions that explore issues of water conservation.

The piece takes its ideas and musical imagery from the River Dart that rises in Dartmoor, Devon, in England.

The Dart is a river that rises on Dartmoor in Devon, England.
The opening to the novel by Eden Phillpotts The River (1902) captures some of the Dart’s qualities:

“FROM the rapt loneliness of her cradle, from her secret fountains, where the red sundew glimmers and cotton grasses wave unseen. Dart comes wandering southward with a song. Her pools and silent places mirror the dawn; noontide sunshine glitters along the granite aprons of her thousandfalls; the wind catches her volume leaping downward, and flings it aloft into rainbows by day and moonlit veils by night. Beneath the echoing hills she passes, under the grey rain or silver mist she takes her most musical course; and presently, the richer by many a little sister river, grows into adult beauty of being, swells to the noblest stream in all the West Country, descends from her high places and winds, full fraught with mystery and loveliness, into the lives of men… 

…ever rolling, ever changing, the river strays; and the nature of mankind is reflected in her many moods, in her peaceful and sunlit summer-time, in her autumn torrents and winter darkness banked with snow. ”

Dart is in two distinct parts that explore the depth of color, resonance and musical quality within the cello. The cello throughout is supported and is in dialogue with an electroacoustic playback that is composed from recordings made of the River Dart or the cello itself. The shifting of levels: dynamic, register, quality and tempo are part of the integral journey the work takes through season and landscape, but always united by a consistent line of musical material varied and reinvented. The opening bursts forth with running torrents of sound, while Part II begins ‘in spate’: tight, bubbling and rhythmic; the work ends in a mature, reflective place.

Madeleine Shapiro is planning to release Dart on her latest CD in early 2013 with works by Morton Subotnick and Judith Shatin, amongst others.

Dart - start

Clip from the middle of Part 2:


And a section from the score near the end of the work:

transition: end of Part 2 to coda

transition: end of Part 2 to coda


And moving into the more reflective mood near the end of the work:



Ear Heart Music Presents: Madeleine Shapiro, Earth Day at The Tank: “Fracked” The Tank – New York, 46th ST., NY on 26th April, 2012.

“Cellist Madeleine Shapiro celebrates Earth Day and continues her Nature Project with “Fracked,” a special concert of works for cello and electronics highlighting the serious issues of water conservation we face today. New York and world premieres of works written specially for this project include Dart by British composer Tom Williams who grew up on the Dart River in Dartmoor, UK; Fracked , Fred DeSena’s new work exploring the controversial practice of hydrofracturing by weaving verbal commentary into the electronic track; and Canadian composer Gayle Young’s meditative exploration of the rock bound Avalon shoreline of New Foundland.”




  1. Ear Heart Music Presents: Madeleine Shapiro, Earth Day at The Tank: “Fracked” The Tank – New York, 46th ST., NY on 26th April, 2012.
  2. Performed by Madeleine Shapiro at Coventry University, Lunchtime Concert Series. 17/10/12, Coventry University.
  3. Performed by Madeleine Shapiro at the INTIME2012 Symposium Notations: the composer/performer dialogue, 19/10/12, Coventry University. www.coventry.ac.uk/intime
  4. NYCEMF at Elebash Hall, CUNY, Fifth Ave. NYC. on 5th April 2013 at 7.15pm
  5.  ICMC2013 (International Computer Music Conference), Perth, Australia: 7.30pm Tuesday 13 August, Hackett Hall, WA Museum, Perth Cultural Centre, played by Sydney-based cellist, Geoffrey Gartner
  6. Selected for IFAI 2014, Leeds
  7. Selected for Presentation at the “Music in the 21st Century” Conference, Trinity College, Dublin