passive aggressive-defensive-contempt-stonewalling

Monica Pearce
Monica Pearce
Composition Date: 2012
Duration: 00:08:00
Genre: Mixed Chamber Ensembles (1 to 9 Performers), Quintets, Woodwind(s), Keyboard(s) / Bowed String(s)


Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 1 x Flute
  • 1 x Clarinet
  • 1 x Piano
  • 1 x Violin
  • 1 x Double bass
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Programme Note:
passive aggressive – defensive – contempt – stonewalling is a four-movement work depicting the four destructive emotions that can unravel the delicate framework of relationships. I was inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, and especially a chapter that featured a psychological experiment by John Gottman. In the “love lab” experiment, Gottman videotaped over three thousand married couples having brief (and often mundane) conversations, and analyzed every conceivable emotion that occurred in these interactions, using an elaborate coding system. Reading every possible emotional nuance in people’s facial expressions, Gottman annotated instances of disgust, sadness, neutrality, anger, etc. Gladwell writes, “ On the basis of those calculations, Gottman has proven something remarkable. If he analyzes an hour of a husband and wife talking, he can predict with 95 percent accuracy whether that couple will still be married fifteen years later.” Through this research, Gottman categorized the “four horsemen” that are the most predictive in failed relationships: criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling.

Through these short snapshots, I attempted to capture the essence of each emotion through musical forces. Replacing criticism with passive aggressiveness, the first movement features the flute as the passive aggressive force – all sinewy sheen, a smile that doesn’t quite reach the eyes. defensive features the clarinet in a whiny, bristly list full of excuses, leading us emotionally to contempt, where the violin and piano spit out attacks and barbs. The piece ends with stonewalling, where wordless strings come up against an unmovable barrier.

Premiere Information:
Heliconian Hall
Toy Piano Composers Ensemble: Katherine Watson, flute; Anthony Thompson, clarinet; Wesley Shen, piano; Sharon Lee, violin; Adam Scime, double bass; Patrick Murray, conductor.


  • Call Number:
  • MI 8515 P357pa
  • Genre:
  • Mixed Chamber Ensembles (1 to 9 Performers), Quintets, Woodwind(s), Keyboard(s) / Bowed String(s)
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • January 23, 2013
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 score (24 p.) ;
    24 Pages
    Height: 28 cm
    Width: 22 cm
    Parts page count: 14
    4 parts ([14] p.) ;
    Height: 28 cm
    Width: 22 cm
  • Additional Information:

  • 1. passive aggressive
    2. defensive
    3. contempt
    4. stonewalling
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passive aggressive-defensive-contempt-stonewalling by Monica Pearce (Score and Parts)
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