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Between silence and the word : wind quintet

by Jennifer Fowler (1987)

Score Sample

View a sample of the score of this work

Audio Sample

Performance by Ensemble Australis, Tony Gray from the CD Works of Jennifer Fowler. Transcriptions Disc 4

Works of Jennifer Fowler. Transcriptions Disc 4


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...Between silence and the word


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...Between silence and the word / Jennifer Fowler.

Library shelf no. 785.4315/FOW 1 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

"a breath hovering, in the realm of dusk, at the threshold between silence and the word". (Hermann Broch).

Although this is an instrumental piece, for wind quintet, I have used the words of a poem about shadows, by Jennifer Gibbons. The poem not only provides the underlying mood of the piece, but the words are also spoken in rhythm by the performers, intertwined with the instrumental lines. The rhythm of the words is taken up by the music: in fact all the music echoes lines of the poem.

The treatment of the music is contrapuntal and circling, with use of close canon. However, so that the texture remains transparent, only portions of these lines are actually stated: they appear and disappear. It follows, though, that the snatches of music are not haphazard, but are based on an underlying logic. I follow my usual practice in dealing with canon, by allowing a certain elasticity in the rhythm of each line, so that note values can expand or contract, allowing variations in the distance between voices.

The use of slightly-out-of-tune notes I hope will add to the rather strange and "strained" sound. The total effect will be, I hope, of a rather quiet piece which is highly tense and intense.

The title is taken from a quotation of Hermann Broch, which I feel is very relevant to this piece, since music can be that breath which hovers "between silence and the word".

Work Details

Year: 1987

Instrumentation: Flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn.All instrumentalists are required to recite the words of the poem in rhythm

Duration: 13 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Commission note: Commissioned by Ensemble Australis.

Words by Jennifer Gibbons, taken from “The Silent Twins” by Marjorie Wallace.

Performances of this work

15 Jun 88: Australia House, The Strand, London, UK. Featuring Ensemble Australis.

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