adam’s grave [clarinet quintet 2013]
instrumentation – clarinet in Bb, violin, viola, cello and harp | circa 12 minutes in duration.
Dedicated to my friend David E W Rogers
notes: The instrumentalists play independently of each other. Music is cued to begin only or at various points throughout the work. There is no ‘fixed’ synchronisation between the instrumentalists. Whilst the relationship of each instrument is flexibly placed against its neighbour, care has been taken to calculate potential outcomes of coincidence and variability. To this end it is vital that metronome markings are adhered to as accurately as possible although the composer appreciates that it is the various interpretations and practicalities inherent in the realisation of tempi that contribute to the richly unique nature and interplay of each performance.
There is only one instruction to the players; to begin when indicated and play until their material it is completed. For the violin, viola and cello, the material is in two parts, each a variant or ‘reflection’ of the other. Each of these sections [rehearsal marks 1-18 and 19 through to end of 35 ] have a duration of around 5 minutes and are separated by various periods of silence for each of the instruments. Cues to begin each section will be given by the clarinet to the individual string players. The clarinettist also cues the harp player to begin.
Compositional material is derived from a series of distant variations that unify all sections with thematic landmarks. Thematic material is audible throughout the piece, bringing cohesion and structure to the work. All the instrumental roles are written to a high degree of virtuosity and most contain extended techniques and quarter-tones. The music itself forms dense, highly complex and constantly changing relationships that are frequently wild and sometimes beautiful.
The score and parts
I have not produced a score for adam’s grave; difficulties and variables associated with displaying the musical material in vertical alignment as represented in real time are considerable. Each performance will yield somewhat different results, interplays, gestural and harmonic references and outcomes. As a result, the material contained within the piece can only be read via the instrumental parts. Consequently there is no definitive performance of the piece. adam’s grave can only be realised through performance [as opposed to comprehended by reading through a score]; this is the nature of the music – it has to be experienced to be ‘known’.
A note about the title:
Adam’s Grave is a real place; it was a Neolithic long barrow in Wiltshire, southwest England. The barrow was destroyed in the Early Modern period. There is now a breast-shaped hill in the spot. Adam’s Grave offers a wonderful vantage point over the very beautiful Pewsey Downs. The title should not suggest that I have written music ‘about’ the location specifically, in an illustrative or programmatic way. Instead, the music could be heard as a degree of distillation of the many and varied thoughts that have passed through my consciousness whilst walking in the area on different occasions, these thoughts themselves conjuring an alternative landscape of fleeting shadows, abstracted impressions and nuances; it is perhaps this ‘shadow-world’ that can be heard in the music.