The Seasons (1987–1988)
for guitar and chamber ensemble
Instrumentation: 2 clarinets/bass clarinets, percussion: 2 rattles/2 wooden boards/4 small drums (1 player), violin, cello
  1. Winter
  2. Spring
  3. Summer
  4. Autumn
African Journal No 8
Dedicated to Rochie and Max Swade
Parts on hire
Publisher: Bardic Edition
Score BDE 957
Available from
Goodmusic Publishing
Duration: 16 minutes

First performance: Monday 29 February 1988; Purcell Room, London; Simon Wynberg guitar, London New Music First broadcast: 7 March 1988; Capitol Radio, London

Programme note
The Seasons was originally conceived as a ballet at the instigation of Robyn Orlin, but eventually took the form of a concert piece or ‘music for an imaginary ballet’. It depicts the seasons - winter, spring, summer, autumn - as experienced in Africa, drawing on traditional music from several parts of the African continent. The regular LNM instrumental lineup - without piano - is joined by concertante guitar, which also provides linking interludes between the movements. It is dedicated to Rochie and Max Swade whose generosity made the composition of the piece possible.

Michael Blake’s divertimento on African traditional music, The Seasons, made an unpretentious and brightly-heard finish to the evening. — Bayan Northcott, The Independent, London, March 1988

For different reasons, both Morton Feldman’s Bass Clarinet and Percussion (1981) and Michael Blake’s The Seasons (1988) have an aural simplicity. The Seasons is inspired through changes in the African calendar year and makes use of traditional music. However, the instrumentation of two clarinets, viola, cello, guitar and percussion, and the nature of the music’s attractive textures, give the work a distinctly European flavour. — Tom Higgins, Musical Opinion, England, June 1988

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