Winter Sun—a photo and a piece of music

Winter Sun
Yesterday I posted a few photographs under the title of "Winter sun, trees, and teasels in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden." I publish here a black and white version of the "Winter Sun" photo (just click on it to enlarge) found there to accompany this post which is primarily aimed at introducing you to the music of composer Terry Jennings. A man whose music lies at the very beginning of Minimalist Music.

When I was at music college in the early 1980s Jennings' music was for me a kind of holy grail in the world of Minimalist Music.

I was much taken with minimalism in its widest understanding (i.e. not just as it was being expressed by Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass) and considered myself to be very much a "disciple" of the New York School of composers, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Earle Brown and Christian Wolff who had their own, distinctive minimalist aesthetic. My final first-year composition, an aleatoric string quartet composed using various techniques borrowed from the early works of these composers, did not (it has to be said) endear me to my professors and I ended my first year very much in purdah. Before the beginning of my second year I decided to quit in order to start playing professionally in the field of jazz and improvised music and the rest is history. It seems the right time to acknowledge my huge gratitude to the one teacher at Colchester Institute who always fully understood the appeal of this kind of music and who always encouraged me in my own experimentations in and commitment to it, Chris Burn.

Anyway, in all the books I was reading at the time, Jennings' music was always being cited as having been highly influential but, goddammit, I could never get to hear any. How frustrating that was.

Fast forward thirty years or so (to 2010) and the wonderful pianist, John Tilbury, releases "Lost Daylight" which includes performances of all the piano pieces I always wanted to hear. Heaven! I discovered they were every bit as wonderful as I imagined them to be and one of them, "Winter Sun", accompanies well (I think) the black and white photo I publish here.

There is, alas, no way I can link you to John Tilbury's sublime seven and a half minute long performance of "Winter Sun" but below is an extract of a performance of the piece by Nicholas Horvath which will give you a reasonably good introduction to Jennings' sound world.


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