Autumn has been particularly beautiful this year.

Red Leaves of Autumn

Red Leaves of Autumn

A couple of weeks ago I took a trip to Westonbirt Arboretum and took some photographs of the trees. Many of the trees were still green, some had turned a rich red, others were in the process of turning. Spectacular!

I suppose it should be a depressing season – winter is just a few weeks away, another year will be over. I will be a year older and will have accomplished little with my life, and will have that bit less of it left.

Yet I also find that first slight hint of a chill in the air invigorating. Before the really bad weather sets in,  this time of year often produces days of astonishing beauty. The light is a rich golden glow rather than the harsh glare of summer.

Partita for Solo Flute

This is a new composition, written for a workshop at the OCA on writing for the flute.
As the name suggests, this piece is inspired by the great flute writing of the baroque period, particularly JS Bach and CPE Bach, also Telemann. Therefore it is a mixture of baroque and a more contemporary styles. I have had the idea to write something like this for a few years, it has been nice to have the incentive to finally get around to it.
The piece is based on dance forms, but I have substituted a tango for the first movement which of course was not a dance of the baroque era.
Movement 1
This movement mixes passages using whole tone and half tone scales with more traditional tonal passages to product two contrasting themes. It should be played at a moderate pace, about that of a normal tango.
Movement 2
This movement has the character of a sarabande so I have called it that. However unlike a
traditional sarabande it is in 5/4 time. The thing I like about this time signature is that it can be played as a group of 3 beats followed by 2, or as a group of 2 beats followed by 3.
This movement should be played at a slow pace with a strict tempo, and relatively little dynamic variation. The mood is one of calmness and serenity.
Movement 3
This movement has the character of a gigue, so I have called it that. While mostly in 3/8 it plays around with the time signature a bit and like the first movement uses both whole and half tone passages as well as more traditional tonal ones.
The mood is light and bubbly and it needs to be played fast.




These files have been updated (June 2nd 2012) to reflect revisions in the piece.

Absorbing Historical Mystery

I first discovered the work of the author C.J. Sansom about a year ago. I was given one of his books (Revelation), and was about half-way through it when I realised that I really had to read all the others in the series. At my age it is really quite exciting to discover a new favourite author.

There are so far five books in the Shardlake series of novels, in order they are: Dissolution, Dark Fire, Sovereign, Revelation and Heartstone. They cover the experiences of lawyer Matthew Shardlake in solving a series of murder cases, set against the background of the corrupt politics of the reign of Henry VIII.

They are very far from being average, run-of-the-mill crime fiction (even average, run-of-the-mill historical crime fiction). There are two main features that distinguish these books for me.

Firstly the character of Shardlake himself is immensely sympathetic. As a character he is flawed and vulnerable, yet is a man in possession an unerring moral compass, often to his own detriment. He has a gift for making powerful enemies (and a few friends).

Secondly, C.J. Sansom succeeds in painting a compelling portrait of life in Tudor England, and corrupt Tudor politics in particular. The intimate detail of everyday life as well the big picture seems convincingly portrayed. It feels like a real world inhabited by real people.

Added to which, each novel delivers a satisfying murder mystery. There are real clues in the text, and you can play the game of guessing the murderer if that is your thing. The eventual solution does actually make sense.

The first novel in the series (Dissolution), is set after the execution of Henry’s second wife Anne Boleyn and, as its title suggests, deals with the issue of the dissolution of the monasteries. The cynical land-grabbing which ensued among the rich and powerful remains a theme throughout the series.

Real historical events are woven throughout the series, so Dark Fire covers the fall of from power of Thomas Cromwell, Sovereign deals with the collapse of Henry’s marriage to Catherine Howard, Revelation is set at the time of his marriage to Catherine Parr. The title is taken from the biblical Book of Revelation, and concerns a serial killer inspired by that work.

The final book (Heartstone) is set at the time of the sinking of the Mary Rose, so very near the end of Henry’s reign. If there is another in the series – and I am very much hoping there will be – it will presumably be set after his death.

If you are intending to read these books it probably is best to start at the beginning of the series (though admittedly I did not)