• Anthony Payne
  • Song of the Clouds (1980)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • 2hnpercstr
  • oboe
  • 25 min

Programme Note

Most of the music I have written in the last ten years has been controlled by elaborate pre-compositional processes. Before writing the first note I have known what will be the exact length of the finished product and the proportions of each section. These, along with many other aspects of the music, the basic melodic contours, rhythmic series etc, have been governed by number sequences, and I found that wrestling with such material released poetry and, perhaps paradoxically, encouraged spontaneous and flexible forms.

However, having discovered a satisfactory working method suited to temperament and musical vision, one must beware of it becoming a personal cliché, and I have recently felt that at least for a time I should look anew at how I composed. The present work is the first fully-fledged product of this approach: I simply wrote ahead from the first bar not knowing how the first movement would end, or even, quite how many movements there would be, although I dimly envisageda two-movement shape, the second a distorted reflection of the first. I hope that I have kept musical language and content fresh by this means, and that any instinctive sense of formal shape and musical ebb and flow has not suffered from the lack of a detailed pre-compostitional plan.

The work has indeed fallen into two movements, and the relationship between the two crystallised in my mind after seeing a science fiction film in which the main character discovered himself in a parallel time continuum, with the same characters and places as in his original existence but in different relationships to each other. My second movement is a variant of the first, but it that specific sense; so that, for instance, it will reach a key moment identical to one in the first movement only to mode suddenly onto a totally opposed plane.

The other vital aspect of the work is suggested by the title, for most of the textural and thematic shapes are associated in my mind with cloud formations and with the distillation of poetic feeling represented by patterns of clouds which have always been for me objects of great fascination and awe.

The work was commissioned by Sarah Francis with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain, and is gratefully dedicated to her. The first performance took place at the Cheltenham Festival on Sunday 19 June 1980 at the Town Hall, Cheltenham with the Orchestra of St John's Smith Square conducted by John Lubbock.