The Art of declension
Five grammar exercises for orchestra

Jeffrey Ryan
Jeffrey Ryan
Composition Date: 1998
Duration: 00:14:00
Genre: Orchestra / Large Ensembles, Full Orchestra (20 or more)


Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 2 x Flute
  • 2 x Oboe
  • 2 x Clarinet
  • 2 x Bassoon
  • 4 x Horn
  • 3 x Trumpet
  • 2 x Trombone
  • 1 x Timpani
  • 1 x Unknown percussion
  • 1 x Unspecified bowed strings
Instrumentation Set Number 2:
  • 1 x Full orchestra
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Programme Note:
The Art of Declension was first inspired by a conversation I had with Susan Haig, of the Windsor Symphony, in which she commented on her experience that Canadians possess generally high levels of good writing skills. Since then, I have been struck by the many writing transgressions I have noticed in the text of major newspapers, perhaps the most amazing of which was the hyphnenation of edge as "ed-ge." The movements of The Art of Declension are thus inspired by a number of "developments" in current English usage.
Past Perfect Progressive is on of myriad tenses used in the English language ("I had been wondering...") which most of us don't consider much anymore, now that English functions mainly in the "present tense" only. It depicts the passage of language through time. 's is about possession, and it is inspired by the common confusion (even among writers who should know better) between its, which is possessive in spite of the absence of an apostrophe, and it's, which is not possessive but is a contraction of it is. Pluralia Tantum is the official term (as I discovered in The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar) for nouns such as pants and scissors, which appear only in the plural. This movement, scored for a more intimate chamber orchestra, follows the journey of a lonely violin in search of its other half. A Compound-Complex sentence, according to the Dictionary, has at least two coordinated clauses and at least one subordinate clause. The line may be fine, but to me that sounds suspiciously like a run-on sentence, which is exactly what this movement is. The final movement, To Boldly Go, is inspired by the classic split infinitive made acceptable by Star Trek; but while exploring a certain degree of "interruption," it recognises that language is a living thing, constantly evolving, and perhaps we should not be chained by the rules that are drummed into us.
The Art of Declension is also a play on Bach's Art of Fugue, and is a series of orchestral studies designed to showcase the players' individual and collctive talents. As a set, it reflects traditional symphonic elements such as scherzo and gigue.

Premiere Information:
May 5, 1998, Chrysler Theatre, Windsor, Ontario; Windsor Symphony, Susan Haig, cond.


  • Call Number:
  • MI 1100 R988art
  • Genre:
  • Orchestra / Large Ensembles, Full Orchestra (20 or more)
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • November 22, 1998
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 score ([2], 83 p.) ;
    85 Pages
    Height: 36 cm
    Width: 22 cm
  • Additional Information:
  • 2222/4230/timp, perc(2)/strings.
    Photocopy; master copy of score in CMC Toronto.
    Duration: ca. 14:00
    Commissioned by the Windsor Symphony through The Canada Council for the Arts.
    Past perfect progressive -- 's -- Pluralia tantum -- Compound-complex -- To boldly go.
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