Instrumentation soprano, Bb/A clarinet and string quartet
Vocal Range Bb3 to Bb5
Timing 22′ in five movements
Poems by Louise Morey Bowman
Co-commissioned by CBC Radio Music and Jason Hall
World Premiere August 2, 2005, Church of St. John the Evangelist, Ottawa, Ontario. Zorana Sadiq, soprano; Kimball Sykes, clarinet; Marie Berard and Stephen Sitarski, violins; Nicolo Eugelmi, viola; Denise Djokic, cello
I first read Louise Morey Bowman’s Timepieces several years ago in an anthology of Canadian women poets, and I knew immediately that one day I would set these vivid words to music. The images in these five poems, written in the early twentieth century, are very much “of their time,” and yet their emotional resonances transcend the limits of time, using clocks, sundials, and modern machinery to create a non-linear world of thought and sensation where the past meets the future in the present.
In this setting for soprano, clarinet and string quartet, the voice and clarinet complement each other, sometimes sounding together, sometimes finishing each other’s thoughts; while the string quartet provides a rich and colourful accompaniment, often based on the sound of chimes and the patterns of clock mechanisms. The first poem introduces us to three different clocks that to me represent three stages of life: the romance of young adulthood, the playfulness and wonder of childhood, and the pride of old age. The next poem, set for voice and clarinet only, evokes the emptiness of time passed alone. An old sundial and Elizabethan sonnets — images of times past — are juxtaposed with a modern garden in the third poem, while in the fourth poem (for voice and string quartet only) the sundial marks the passage of time as another winter comes. This leads directly to the final poem — a coda of sorts — in which the timelessness of clocks and sundials is jarringly contrasted with the roar of the factory, and the “modern” rhythm of the machinery itself emerges.
Timepieces is dedicated to the memory of Robert M. Hall.
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