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Durations and Barcarolle, Op. 15a


[sample score]


Year of composition: 2024

Instrumentation: clarinet, piano

Movement names and durations:

I. Durations (4 mins)

II. Barcarolle (3 mins)

Total: 7 mins

Related work: Songs to the Fair Youth: 6 Songs on Time's Passage, Op. 15


World premiere:

Lai Tsoi Yin (cl), Kelvin Chan (pno)

2024 Jun 28・Recital Hall, City Hall, Hong Kong

Durations and Barcarolle are two instrumental movements, the seventh and the fourth respectively, taken from Songs to the Fair Youth: 6 Songs on Time’s Passage. It is part of the composer’s project to set the complete Shakespeare’s sonnets into song cycles. 

Durations initially pays homage to the sound world of Morton Feldman but employs newer temporal notations than those in his works of the same name. The movement traces the relative perception of the passage of time as a person grows in age: the fabric of time in the piano part feels more static as the clarinet opens with motifs representing youth and beauty, but gradually gains momentum as they morph into that of old age against a constantly flowing harmonic progression that foreshadows the more ominous barcarolle. The boat depicted in Barcarolle is probably closer to that of Charon and carries the sobering thought of the mortality of everything beautiful, including loved ones. The characteristic bell chimes persistently haunt the piece and, towards the end, sink into the horizon and become the primal pulse of tides and, by extension, the inevitability of nature’s law.

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