The Seasons at Home (1987–1988)

for guitar and chamber ensemble (2 clarinets/bass clarinets, percussion: 2 rattles/2 woodblocks/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

Duration: 16 minutes


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

Programme note

The Seasons (at Home), the eighth work in the cycle ‘African Journal’, 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


Chamber music