Symphony in Five Small Movements

Symphony 5 Small 2017-12-05T11:53:44+00:00

Symphony in Five Small Movements


This was written partly in 1961 and partly in 2016/2017. The five movements are named after some young ladies I knew many years ago – though no movement is a personal description.

The orchestration is for Flute, 2 oboe, clarinet, 2 bassoon, trumpet, trombone, snare drum, claves, timpani, string section: violin, violin, cello, double bass.

Some themes are shared between the movements. The name of each lady is encoded in the music in Morse code – this is only a joke. There are also references to Balkan and Iranian themes, including two Iranian (Christian) hymns. Sylvia and Orlanda attended the school next door to mine; Tricia and Elsa went to the same church as I did; Pamela was at the same school and also the same church, and hence was the only girl who had met all the others.

Sylvia” really was written in 1961. It contains the Morse codes for S-Y-L-V-I-A and P-A-M-E-L-A. The dot is one unit of time, the dash is three; the space between the separate strokes of a single character is one unit of time; and the space between two characters is three units of time. The same is true for the other movements in the symphony.

Orlanda” was completed in 2016, but its first theme, and its initial development were written in 1961. This movement contains the name O-R-L-A-N-D-A in the base line, in Morse code. There is a quote (and a mis-quote) of a theme from Bach – though my counterpoint is nowhere near as good as his!

Tricia” is a much darker, and more serious, movement. Its three parts represent thinking about death, the process of dying, and the resolution after death. The initial themes and their development fughetta were all written in 1961. At each re-entry of the first theme there is an extension of one bar – one section of the theme – that grows in length.

The second part – the process of dying – represents a fearful and unpleasant death. There is a repeated series of double-thumps on the timpani, which can (loosely) be interpreted as the heart, acting as a background to a pained, narrow, pinching theme. This theme is presented first alone, then as a quasi-canon in two parts, and then three. The long opening note is always matched by a strong double-thump.

The third section unwinds hesitantly, bringing in a series of resolutions – themes that represent an acceptance and peaceful relaxation. Amongst these there are a few repeats of the very first theme, which now indicates a better, less fearful approach to death.

Elsa” is much brighter, and brings in some distant themes originating in Iran. There are two (modified) hymn tunes – Ghordous and Negahan be to ast Isa. The morse codes for E-L-S-A and T-R-I-C-I-A are included.

Pamela“, the last movement, is the brightest, most cheerful of them all. It quotes from each of the other movements, as well as bringing in its own themes.. There are a couple of (by note) references to B-A-C-H (b flat, a, c, b).


First movement: Sylvia 


Second movement: Orlanda

Score:   Orlanda (score)


Third movement: Tricia

Score:   Tricia (score)


Fourth movement: Elsa


Fifth movement: Pamela