Uneasy Dreams (2006)
Before the Road (1997)
On the Edge
Arias and Ghosts (2006)
Selected Movements of Great Masters (1996)



Uneasy Dreams
(2006) is based on fantasy sequences from films directed by Terry Gilliam and is in three sections: Tideland, A Blues for Sam Lowry and The Fisher King. The opening section, Tideland, conjures up eleven year old Jeliza Rolse's elaborate flights of fancy. The piece begins in murky twililght, the air punctuated by swarms of fireflies; the texture gradually transforms to evoke an underwater dream world. Sam Lowry, the anti-hero of Gilliam's film Brazil, is an ordinary man trapped in a totalitarian dystopia but resigned to his fate. Gilliam's film The Fisher King retells the Parsifal story in modern-day New York. The music for this final section is a distorted and half remembered chorale that draws on a chord sequence from Wagner's Parsifal.

All three sections of Uneasy Dreams run without a break; the piece lasts 8 minutes. The title is borrowed from the first sentence of Kafka's Metamorphosis: 'As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself tranformed in his bed into a gigantic insect...'


back to top




Before the Road (1997) was composed for Saxophone or Clarinet Quartet and commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for the radio drama series Between the Ears. It was a preparatory study for The Road for Orchestra, commissioned bu the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. The composer's note for the first performance stated that;

'The title refers to an image from childhood of sun with high wind on a remote road. The music is looked at as if it were a series of objects whose secret must be grasped - there is no turning away until the force of each is perceived. This intent looking gives the material a vertiginous aspect and clouds its origin. The music is not programmatic, the title and note came after the music was composed...'

In spite of the composer's last sentence the music does show many characteristics of programmatic or film music which is not surprising given the nature of the commission. This is caused by the music's fragmentary and quixotic nature with seemingly crazy changes of mood mid-phase. The music is unpredictable and wonderfully rich in its allusions. The most audible of these is the relationship with Stravinsky's music, particularly his earlier chamber music such as the Octet for wind instruments and The Soldiers Tale.

Before the Road is in eleven very short movements and creates a variety of contrasting musical moods and textures. The expression markings in the score are vivid, fpr example the first movement is marked 'volatile', the second 'chugging' and the the fifth 'vicious'. In the final movement the markings move from 'sad' to 'cheerful' back to 'sad' and finally to 'sanguine' in only 5 bars giving a clear example of the mood swings in the piece. The final bar of the work is an exact replica of the opening, suggesting a reprise but then breaking off - a typical device of Barry's music.

Mike Searby


back to top





On The Edge was written especially for the Delta Saxophone Quartet and the title was inspired by Chris Caldwell's website; www.musicontheedge.com. The name suggested to me the feeling of nervous excitement, possibly fear felt when standing at the edge of a new venture and the state of unreality experiences in certain dreams. These feelings, in turn, inspired the fluttering and hesitant nature of the main theme with its quarter tone inflections of the melodic line. In common with most of my music, it is written in a single movement but contains five sections each separated bu a short chordal refrain.

Tim Ewers


back to top




Arias and Ghosts was composed in 2006 for the Delta Saxophone quartet and first performed in May 2007 at Kingston University. It consists of five contrasting movements: Desolate Landscape; Quicksilver; Polish Canons; Shocks and Arias and Ghosts. Arias and Ghosts is inspired by Xenakis's stunning Saxophone Quartet Xas, and used a multi-octave scale from the latter piece to generate all its pitch material. Each movement explores a particular textural landscape, and the titles illustrate how the movements are created or conceived. Desolate Landcapes explores the scale through sustained but ever-shifting harmonies. Quicksilver makes use of the virtuosity of the quartet in a frenetic and increasingly impassioned movement.



Polish Cannons
alludes to Lutoslawski's Funeral Music for Strings because of the similarity of the structure of its pitch material (using semitones and augmented fourths) and the use of canonic techniques. Shocks explores the layering of varied repeated notes which create a complex shifting texture; the shocks in the title are sharp accented chords which spark the music into life. Arias and Ghosts gives each player in turn an aria which is ghosted by the other players to create its accompaniment. The relatively conventional melodies in the final movement are controlled by an aleatoric process which creates unpredictable twists and turns to the line. The other musical model that I had in mind is Ligeti's Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet which is a masterpiece of short but vivid textural sketches.



back to top



Selected Movements of Great Masters
was commissioned by the Delta Saxophone Quartet for first performance at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in November 1996. It is dedicated to the then director of the festival, Richard Steinitz.



Finnissy has always frawn on a wide range of musical sources for inspiration including folk music from around the world as well as the whole range of Western classical music. In this piece however, references to the music of the great masters are fleeting, capturing the essence of the music rather than explicitly delivering quotes and remain, almost entirely, below the surface of the dense, polyphonic musical texture. The density of the texture is also increased by the range of two alto and two tenor saxophones, thereby reducing the available pitch range. The music is constructed in overlapping layers; each player has a solo section and there are three tutti sections, but only in the final tutti do the players share a common tempo. The composer also indicates the spatial disposition and movement of the players; the tuttis are performed seated at the front of the stage and the solos are delivered from the back of the stage and facing away from the audience. During their solos, the players are asked to perform a variety of physical actions. These should be done as un-self-conciously as possible and should not be exaggerated or played for laughs.

Selected Movements of Great Masters - Spohr tugs at his forelock, Schubert brushes his teeth, C.P.E. Bach scratches his bottom, Beethoven blows his nose...


Tim Ewers



back to top