Derek R. Brookes

Next Time

Composition Date: 2014
Duration: c. 6
Instrumentation: Oboe, Bassoon, Piano & Percussion

Program Notes

This piece emerged as I was experimenting with a kind of minimalism. I was wanting to see if I could build a complete work out of the least possible number of compositional elements. So for this piece, I decided to use the technique of ostinato (a continually repeated musical phrase or rhythm) as the basic compositional building block. 

Each instrument thus has its own ostinato for each movement. But each instrument adds its unique ostinato to the mix, resulting in a kind of layering or fugue-like effect. However, not every instrument repeats itself exactly. The piano in particular has far more freedom to embellish and develop.

Soon after I had completed the piece, I came across a wonderfully evocative poem by William E. Stafford, called “Next Time” (1983).1  I immediately saw a connection between the main themes of the poem and what I was trying to do in musical terms: namely, showing how it was possible to engage with continually repeated things (or sounds) so as to see (or hear) them in a fresh way.  By way of giving recognition to this serendipitous ‘alignment’, I gave the work the same title as Stafford’s poem, and drew the name of each movement from the final line of the relevant stanza.

The music was written before I encountered the poem, so it can stand alone. But I hope the listener will nevertheless find that reading the poem alongside the music will enrich their experience, as it still does for me.

Next Time

Next time what I’d do is look at
the earth before saying anything. I’d stop
just before going into a house
and be an emperor for a minute
and listen better to the wind
          or to the air being still.
When anyone talked to me, whether
blame or praise or just passing time,
I’d watch the face, how the mouth
had to work, and see any strain, any
       sign of what lifted the voice.
And for all, I’d know more—the earth
bracing itself and soaring, the air
finding every leaf and feather over
forest and water, and for every person
the body glowing inside the clothes
          like a light.

1 From Stafford, W. (1998). Next Time. In The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems. Graywolf Press.