What do the Birds Think?
for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion and piano

Derek Charke
Composer
Derek Charke
Composition Date: 2002
Genre: Mixed Chamber Ensembles (1 to 9 Performers), Sextets, Woodwind(s) / Percussion, Keyboard(s) / Bowed String(s)

Instrumentation:

Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 1 x Flute
  • 1 x Clarinet
  • 1 x Other percussion
  • 1 x Piano
  • 1 x Violin
  • 1 x Violoncello
Click here to download full work (20.54 Mb - Not printable)

Programme Note:
WHAT DO THE BIRDS THINK?
Al Purdy, Pangnirtung Nunavut

Are they exiles here from the rest of the world?
Déjà vu past egg and atom
from the yellow Sahara-ocean
or farmlands in Ontario
a witness hanging painted in the rural blue...

Reprinted by permission of Harbour Publishing, Box219, Madeira Park BC V0N 2H0


The seed of inspiration for this composition comes from the poem by Al Purdy entitled, "What do the Birds Think?" The composition does not quote the poem in any absolute form but rather embraces an abstract concept of nostalgia, remembrance, migration, birdcalls and isolated place. This poem has resonance for me through my own experience of living in the arctic (Inuvik) and a migration of sorts to the southern reaches of Canada (Fort Erie) where I am currently studying at SUNY Buffalo.

The overall form of the composition is like an arch. Originally there was to be 7 movements; the 1st and 7th, the 2nd and 6th, and the 3rd and 5th having some relationship to one another. This would then leave a lone 4th movement. What eventually happened was that the 7th movement was dropped leaving the arch incomplete. The 1st movement was then doubled in length and the ending of the 6th movement leaves a lone cello hanging in space waiting for the elusive 7th movement. All 6 movements are also connected by a series of proportions 3/4, 1/2, 3/2, 4/5, 4/3 (if there had been a 7th movement, 2/1).

The 1st movement 'remembrance' works through a series of pitches that are triggered by the piano and percussion and sustained (remembered) by the other 4 instruments. This movement can stand alone as a complete composition. The 2nd and 6th movements have much in common since the phrase structures were based entirely on a precompositional 'filtering' of the poem, letter by letter, which gave the units of time for rests and sound. I took the numbers 7, (for the 7 instruments - counting piano as 2) 5 for the number of basic divisional units of the poem and 11 for the number of units within the total 5. This resulted in a series of 55 sounding phrases and 55 units of rest for each of the 7 instruments in each of the two movements. I then erased some of the phrase units shifting the time in-between to get closer or farther apart depending on the overall structural format I was searching for. All other material was then generated after the structural component was laid down. This was further filtered but the outcome of movements 2 and 6 is achieved; seemingly random phrase units that play off one another but are teleological in nature and, in particular, lead us into the 3rd and non-existing 7th movement with a certain amount of energy.

The 3rd and 5th movements both use a reworking of the filtered poem from movements 2 for the flute, clarinet, and violin or bass flute, violin and cello in movement 5. This reworking plays its self out in the 3rd movement as a high pitch, very active layer that begins just before the entrance of the cello solo and ends after movement 4 has begun off stage. This same material is then transposed down in pitch, in retrograde motion and the lines of rhythm are blurred for all of movement 5 where the piano takes on the solo roll that the cello had in Movement 3. This time the ensemble is muted, continuing as if in the distance and still off stage. In keeping with the isolated nature of the central pivotal movement 4, the bass clarinet and percussionist perform off stage and out of site from the audience. The bass clarinet plays material that is generated from the other 5 movements as the percussionist accompanies on a scaled down array of instruments extracted from the main set.

Find out more about this work at Derek Charke's webpage

Premiere Information:
March 1, 2003, Scotiabank Dance Centre, Vancouver; Helikon Ensemble.

CATALOGUE INFO:

  • Call Number:
  • MI 8655 C473wha 2002
  • Genre:
  • Mixed Chamber Ensembles (1 to 9 Performers), Sextets, Woodwind(s) / Percussion, Keyboard(s) / Bowed String(s)
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • January 11, 2005
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 score (vi, 74 p.) ;
    80 Pages
    Height: 28 cm
    Parts page count: 109
    5 parts ((109) p.) ;
    Height: 28 cm
  • Additional Information:
  • For flute, clarinet, violin, violoncello, percussion and piano.
    Photocopy; master of score and parts in CMC Toronto.
    Percussionist plays from score.
    Includes diagram of set-up.
    I. (places soon remembered) -- II. (what do the birds think?) -- III. -- IV. (isolated places - off stage) -- V. (nostalgia - goodbye - we are going)
Request a Repertoire Consultation
Suggest Modification for this Record

Available For:

  • Loan
  • Purchase
Available Products for this piece:

TitleDetailsPriceAdd this Product
What do the birds think? for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion and piano by Derek Charke (Score)
Printed on demand
$34.99
What do the birds think? for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion and piano by Derek Charke (Score and Parts)
Printed on demand
$126.98
In Sonorous Falling TonesIn Sonorous Falling TonesCD $13.98
What Do the Birds Think? for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Percussion and Piano: Score
Score
(downloadable PDF)
$26.99
What Do the Birds Think? for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Percussion and Piano: Score and Parts
Score and Parts
(downloadable PDF)
$80.99
What do the Birds Think? for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion and piano
Library Loan
--
Copies of this work are available for loan from: Toronto, Montréal, Calgary, Vancouver