• Robert Saxton
  • Echoes of the Glass Bead Game (1975)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • fl.ob.cl.bsn/hn
  • 12 min

Programme Note

"...The Glass Bead Game could be played alone, by pairs, or by many... in the course of time, displays of virtuosity fell more and more under a strict ban... the Game began to be enriched by a new function, for it became a public ceremonial...to evolve out of thesis and antithesis the purest possible synthesis..."

ECHOES OF THE GLASS BEAD GAME was written in 1975, while I was waiting to begin a post-graduate year at Oxford, having completed my undergraduate degree that summer.

Sixteen years later it is clear to me that I was attempting to bring order and coherence to the many-voiced polyphony which I was hearing in my mind's ear. The music which I was able to compose then was inherently static, resulting from an almost continual use of the total chromatic and an obsession with making every vertical interval 'correct', according to the rules of my own game, if not of Hesse's. As a result, progress had to be created by texture and gesture rather than by harmonic movement, and this is what occurs in Echoes of the Glass Bead Game. The title refers to Hesse's description of the game in the introduction to his novel, and the choice of five wind instruments seemed appropriate for the intimate, close polyphony as well as the ritualistic style of the later part of the piece. (I
was also submitting the work for a competition organized by the Vega Quintet.) Within the 'pure' language of my music at that period, the thesis and antithesis are simply polyphony and homophony, both of these apparently opposed textures deriving from a common harmonic background. From winding polyphony, the music progresses through a central passage in which short chords punctuate the contrapuntal web, to a closing section where homophonic music dominates, having become 'frozen' polyphony. The course of the music is therefore faithful to Hesse's description of the Game.

ECHOES OF THE GLASS BEAD GAME WAS first performed by the Vega Wind Quintet at the Wigmore Hall, London in June 1977.

© Robert Saxton