Solo was commissioned by Julian Bream and written in 1986. It was first performed by Gary Ryan on 14th October 1996 in a Park Lane Group concert celebrating Giles Swayne’s fiftieth birthday, at the Purcell Room, London.
During the first half of the 1980s I had drastically trimmed my musical language, eliminating harmonic clutter and dissonance, and restricting myself almost entirely to a modal sound-world and audibly physical rhythms – often derived from my interest in African music though never attempting to imitate it. Canto for cello, Magnificat I, Riff-raff, A song for Haddi, Symphony for small orchestra, Naaotwa Lala and MIssa Tiburtina are examples of this period of radically reduced vocabulary. By the time I started work on Solo I had achieved the purpose of washing out the ears of my musical imagination, and was ready to re-enter (cautiously) a broader sound-world.
Solo remains largely within a modal context, and much of it is purely pentatonic; but the mode is gradually transformed and extended. so that eventually the full complement of twelve semitones becomes available.