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