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Winnowing Light : for Bb clarinet and marimba

by Clare Maclean (2023)

Work Overview

This work follows Kate Fagan's poem, 'Evening Devotional,' in dialogue with symbolism surrounding swifts and their evening flights above the clouds. Author Helen Macdonald refers to what are known as 'vesper flights,' and Kate Fagan has woven this idea into her poem with references to the Magnificat, from Evensong or evening prayers. The music incorporates one of the plainchant melodies associated with the Magnificat, tonus peregrinus, 'the wandering tone,' associated as it also is with Psalm 113, 'When Israel came out of Egypt.' This seemed appropriate for birds who spend most of their life in the air and who migrate between continents.

The musical colours and textures aim for an analogue of the swifts' winnowing of the light from the poem. Winnowing of grain in many places has traditionally taken place in the evening, when a breeze picks up to blow away the chaff. The ephemerality of wind and flight, in the liminal time of evening, seem emblematic of both our mortality and the limitlessness of the cosmos.

Work Details

Year: 2023

Instrumentation: Clarinet in B flat, marimba.

Duration: 12 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Chromatic melodies and chords, syncopation.

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