Kyle Gann: Lord Thomas and Fair Annie

For several years in my youth I harbored the idea of writing an ensemble piece, perhaps even an orchestra piece, which would be the orchestration of a single melody, rippling through the ensemble; Lord Thomas and Fair Annie, written when I was 22, was the result of the urge (along with, in a different way, Siren for flute quintet of the same year). I'm not unhappy with the piece, but it turned out so difficult to perform that I never went any further with the idea. (I'm afraid I was, at the time, doing a conducting tutorial on Boulez's Le Marteau sans maitre, and fancied I should be allowed all of the same metric intricacies Boulez used, despite my more tonal idiom.) The idea of making up a long melody from recurring modules, however, was an idea I'd return to in my Snake Dances and other works. "Lord Thomas and Fair Annie" was the name of a Scots ballad I enjoyed listening to at the time, and which I found related to the romantic turn of some of the melodic fragments. The piece received a single performance, at Northwestern University, but the tape of that concert needs baking to be restored, and I'm not sure the performance would justify the trouble. In September of 2009 I simplified the metric notation at many points. Tuneful yet abstract, the piece is, perhaps, a portrait of a young composer poised between minimalism on one hand and Le marteau, Quartet for the End of Time, and Zeitmasze on the other - a symptomatic artifact of the 1970s.

Score (PDF) (revised version)

- Kyle Gann

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