Living Miniatures

Year Composed: 2015
Instrumentation: fl, ob/e.h., cl/bcl, bsn, hn
Duration 12 minutes

I Spring Gate
II Oakenshield
III Road to Aberdeen

Audio Excerpts (MP3)

Program Notes

Living Miniatures was loosely inspired by my experiences residing in various communities—urban, suburban, and rural. These broad categories represent different solutions to the problem of social cohesion; each have their own emergent values, beneficial and deficient in differing ways. The three short movements that comprise Living Miniatures can be thought of caricatures of a sort: whimsical in tone for the most part, but occasionally biting. The work is scored for wind quintet, itself a microcosm of the challenges (lack of homogeneity) and advantages (strength in diversity) of any society.

The first movement (“Spring Gate”) opens with a flute cadenza, its broad, pentatonic flourishes naïve and welcoming. It is answered by the other instruments, but the conversation is far from harmonious; the clarinet, for example, adopts the same mode, but one that is based on a different tonal centre. Eventually, the horn redirects the conversation into a more conventional, thematically-driven discourse, interrupted occasionally by strange, austere tangents between various pairs of instruments. The second movement (“Oakenshield”) begins idyllically, but as the primary motive is passed obsessively from instrument to instrument, eventually becoming its own accompaniment, the mood stagnates. In the third movement (“Road to Aberdeen”), all instruments are on their own, pursuing single-minded missions; they are bound together by an intense quasi-fugal framework and a breathless pulse, driving them toward their uncertain goals. After a frenetic climax, the rhythmic scaffolding suddenly collapses, leaving behind a lyrical fragment which never develops or repeats. The movement ends with a brief reprise of the flute cadenza from the first movement. The titles of each movement all reference a specific location in my experience; I will leave it to the listener to imagine what is being represented.


  • April 13, 2015 - Blythwood Winds. Music Gallery, Toronto.

Commissions and Awards

  • Commissioned by the Blythwood Winds.


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