Not The Stillness...

Length / year

10' - 1998



Performance history

First Performance
MusicFest, Aberystwyth
30th July 1998
Benjamin Ramitz - piano
Nicholas Jones - cello
David Campbell - clarinet

US Premiere
Angel Orensanz Foundation, New York
October 2001
Musica Experimento Roma
Enrico Cocco - director
(Part of 'Different Lights' performance for 'UK in NY Festival')

Irish Premiere
Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford, Ireland (Waterford New Music Week)
29th January 2004
PM Ensemble

Programme note

Writing a new work for the same combination of instruments as Messiaen's 'Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps' was a demanding challenge. There are relatively few pieces for this combination of instruments and if it were frequently performed it could well be in the context of a programme including the Messiaen, a work that by the circumstances surrounding its creation and, indeed, by its very nature, is very particular.

"Not the stillness of the violin . . ."

My first idea was to write a long slow movement, and, in fact, I completed three sections for such a piece. But I also had related ideas for a very fast section and another dance-like section. With all this material it was very hard to find a final form for the piece; it was similar to having all the (small number of) pieces for a simple jigsaw but not knowing how they fitted together. Eventually, however, quite a lot of material was cut from the piece and a first version of the piece emerged - two slow, still, outer movements separated by a short, very fast and jazzy dance. A further reconceptualisation led to more cuts and reorganisation and to the final form of the work - three slow sections linking as one long slow movement. Such was the circular journey to the starting point.

"Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts . . ."

I have not heard the Messiaen for some years but I have tried to recreate, in my own terms, the same rapt stillness of the slow sections of the 'Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps'. A lot of the material is very simple, always 'white note' harmony without modulation and moving round a simple bass sequence of three notes. I have also used a little motto of slow, three note chords to preface the work as I did in 'Light Music' for piano (four hands), and in other senses these superficially very different works have elements in common.

"Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts. Not that only . . ."

- T.S.Eliot.

'Not the Stillness . . .' was commissioned by MusicFest, Aberystwyth with funds made available by the Arts Council of Wales, and was first performed on 30th July 1998.