Saturday, July 3, 2010

Timepiece ~ A Wind Quintet

(proposed program note for Timepiece)

I've been a Registered Music Therapist since 1980 and first got into composing by writing piano pieces for adult beginners more suitable for their larger hands and mature sensibilities than the children's pieces usually on offer. Then over the years I also began to write music for myself and friends to play, mostly involving flute, alto flute, cello and piano.

In 1994 a flute playing friend asked me to write a piece for the wind quintet she'd just joined and I jumped at the chance because that ensemble combines the intimate expressiveness of a small chamber group with such a powerful palette of tonal colors. The title derives from two of the three movements having unusual time signatures, which allows for creating fresh and innovative music while remaining fully in the tonal realm.

A late draft of Timepiece got a small public reading and was never heard again as some members of that quintet moved away and it never reformed. Last year on Jonathan West's horn blog I read of his interest in finding new music and got in touch. On getting a receptive response I sent him the parts to try out, leaving the final editing for live performance in his capable hands. Were it not for the St. Clements Wind Ensemble, this music would still just be some ones and zeros on my computer. I am immensely grateful to them for bringing it to life.

Lyle Sanford
Orange, Virginia

This very exciting. When Jonathan got in touch recently to say the SCWE had rehearsed the piece and decided to perform it, I felt then it was already a success, their liking it enough to keep working on it.

Were there no demands on my time and I could do whatever I wished, I'd spend a lot of time composing. There's nothing quite like creating new music. Always the first time I hear it performed it's a little like dreaming while awake, with my conscious mind getting hints of my unconscious mind encoded in the music. 


  1. Hi Lyle
    I'm looking forward to performing it!

    We definitely had an enjoyable time rehearsing it last week. (Whisper who dares, but I liked it better than Ketil Hvoslef quintet we rehearsed in the same session.)

    It was a unanimous opinion among the group that we liked it enough to put it into the program for Edinburgh.

    When rehearsing a new piece, particularly a newly-composed piece where you haven't had any opportunity to listen to recordings, the music emerges only gradually. Initially, you are just concentrating on counting and getting the right notes in the right places. Only after that do you have time to give attention to balance, phrasing and eventually structure and overall interpretation.

    And the interesting thing about this process in chamber music is that it is a collaborative process. All the participants have something to contribute to the interpretation, we are not just ciphers working according to the controlling mind and interpretation of the conductor.

    In due course, I'll put something up on my blog about the process of bringing Timepiece to performance.

  2. We were all unanimous in deciding we wanted to perform the piece. I rather preferred Timepiece to the other new piece we tried, by Ketil Hvoslef.

  3. Jonathan - That's terrific news, if only because I knew I was jumping the gun a bit putting up this post (The Pliable's brief mention of the blog caused a little spike in traffic, some from over there, so there was the idea of taking advantage of it.)

    Your comments about coming to know the piece as a collaborative effort, having never before heard it, made my music therapist's heart sing. Besides being more rewarding for the players, I think that sort of positive energy and engagement by the players gets transmitted by the music being made that way.

    My group got a lot of nice compliments here recently, and a lot of them had to do with how obvious it was we were having fun. The music was as important as a conduit of that feeling as it was in and of itself.

    Thank you so much for expending the time and effort on this. Without your involvement, this simply wouldn't be happening.