Spring in New X (1979)

Canon for four groups of instruments (flute/piccolo, clarinet, bass clarinet; percussion (1 player: glock, xyl, bass drum), piano; mandolin, guitar; violin, viola, cello)

African Journal No 3

Written for the Goldsmiths Contemporary Music Ensemble


Duration: 5 minutes, 15 seconds


First performance: March 1980; Goldsmiths College, London, United Kingdom; Goldsmiths Contemporary Music Ensemble, Michael Blake conductor.

Programme note

Between 1978 and 1980, I directed the Goldsmiths Contemporary Music Ensemble which I had established at the instigation of former head of music Stanley Glasser. Unusual among the available resources was both guitar and mandolin, so among other pieces we studied Schoenberg’s Serenade Op 24, but it was also the mandolin player Patrick Foster, who put forward the suggestion that I write a piece in which all the members of the ensemble could play.

As a postgraduate student in the late 1970s I made the journey regularly to Goldsmiths College in New Cross, southeast London. Anyone who travelled by train to Goldsmiths College until the 1990s will remember the destination sign on the trains which read “New X” or “New X Gate”, and anyone who was living in Britain in May 1979 will remember the tragic demise of Jim Callaghan’s minority Labour government, and the arrival on the scene of the odious Margaret Thatcher and her rightwing government.

That was a spring one would have preferred to forget, but I put my mind to composing a kind of canon – a musical image overlaid four times somewhat erratically, as if the groups of instruments were completely independent. 


Chamber music