Amsterdam Lockdown

Amsterdam Lockdown was originally conceived in the Spring of 2020 as a commission for the Delta Saxophone Quartet as part of their Project Flicks series which combines live performance with film and was principally inspired by a collection of striking pictures seen on social media of Central London at the beginning of the pandemic. In these photos, the photographer had captured the beautiful iconic architecture of London against the clear blue spring skies. However, the most striking thing was the complete emptiness of the streets. It felt simultaneously surreal, beautiful but also highly unsettling, as if all the life and energy had been sucked out of the city.

This became the main source of inspiration for the piece – an attempt to capture the eery emptiness of a city at the height of lockdown. Paul’s eldest son, Alex, lives and works in Amsterdam and he began to send through video footage as he cycled through the empty streets of the city. However, it soon became apparent that the piece would become much more of a personal reflection of the world we found ourselves in, rather than something that simply underscored the emptiness and silence of a modern metropolis. The music started to take on the form of three distinctive sections within the piece, reflecting the eeriness and emptiness of the city, the anguish, fear and uncertainty that so many of us felt, and finally the sense of longing and the need to be close to loved ones from whom we had been separated.

The second movement Summer, Autumn, Winter was written at the end of 2021 and was again inspired by film and images taken by Paul’s son Alex. As Amsterdam came to life over the summer, the hustle and bustle of city life returned and the restaurants, cafes and bars became busy once again.

However, as the year progressed, it became apparent that this newfound optimism would not last as Covid cases in the Netherlands rose to alarming levels. In early December the country went into partial lockdown as the Omicron variant took hold and by the middle of the month the country was once again in full lockdown. The piece ends as a reflection on the haunting images of empty streets at Christmas time. The music comes full circle as we hear the opening theme of Amsterdam Lockdown once again.

The pieces were recorded by the Delta Saxophone Quartet for their 2023 album ‘Late Music’.