Summer Waves – Barry Mills – Vol. 4 – CC5153
£9.99 – £15.99
“Another fine album of music from this gifted composer!”
Intuitively, I feel that there are patterns and processes in nature which have their parallels in our lives and that consequently the contemplation of natural phenomena stimulates modes of thinking and feeling which enable us to make sense of this world and our place in it. In much of my music I have tried to communicate this quality of feeling and understanding. Watching trees moving in the wind, appreciating the freshness of a new day as it unfolds, being aware of the passage of time and the ending of things as day gives way to night are all poignant experiences keeping us in touch with the really important things of day to day life, thereby nourishing our humanity and humility.
The “Saxophone Sketches” were composed for Tony Sions, who sadly died before his recording of them could be released on this CD. He was a good friend and his great passion for the saxophone and beautiful playing inspired me to write much music involving the saxophone. These pieces are images of the four seasons – the opening of “Autumn” depicting the motion of a falling leaf.
The “Saxophone Quartet” is in two movements: “Morning Song” and “Night
Winds”. The first suggesting the gradual unfolding of the day whilst the second balances this with an evocation of darkness and the ending of the day.
In the solo clarinet piece, in addition to conventional playing, I have used bending of pitch, fluttertongue and playing the same note with changing fingering to suggest “The Wind and the Trees”.
My main concern in the “Duo for Flute and Clarinet” was to have a constantly changing relationship between the two instruments. To this end, as well as passages of dialogue, there are also solo and unison passages.
I think the guitar is able to produce more different musical colours than any instrument I know. This, combined with the big range of pitch provided by the instrumental line up of the English Guitar Quartet, enabled me to write three movements of very different character for this ensemble. The piece really moves across a day: first, there is flickering light on a calm morning sea, then more movement as the day progresses and wind manifests. Finally, this gives way to a very still night.
The “Trio for Flute, Viola and Guitar” and the “Trio for Flute, Viola and Harp” are both cast in one movement. There are sections for one instrument, two instruments and all three and the forms of both pieces are conceived around creating “musical windows” for all these possibilities.
“Harp Sketches” falls into five sections: A1 B1 A2 B2 A3. The A sections are characterised by melodic patterns suggestive of birdsong, whilst the B sections are characterised by very fast plucking of the strings whilst simultaneously shifting the pedals to produce a chromatic haze of sound. The piece ends with one hand producing an eerie, wind-like sound by moving up and down the wire bound strings whilst the other hand plays patterns from the A sections above this.
I would like to thank Amelia Mills, Colin Attwell, William Attwell and Jonathan Lane for their help and support during the production of this CD.
© 2001 Barry Mills
Barry Mills was born in Plymouth in 1949 and is for the most part self-taught as a composer. He obtained a degree in Biochemistry from Sussex University in 1971 and returned to Sussex to pursue an MA in music in 1976-77 studying Analysis with David Osmond-Smith and David Roberts and Composition with Colin Mathews and Ann Boyd. His present lifestyle consists of working as delivery postman in Brighton, an early morning job, and composing in the afternoons.
Further releases on Claudio:
CC4318-2/CD Morning Sea – Barry Mills – Vol.1
CC4324-2/CD Under the Stars – Barry Mills – Vol.2
CC4325-2/CD Mosaics – Barry Mills – Vol.3
CC5153-2/CD Summer Waves – Barry Mill – Vol.4
CC6040-2/CD & BD/-6 Elan Valley – Barry Mills – Vol.5
CC6044-2/CD & BD/-6 Interbeing – Barry Mills – Vol.6
The orchestral piece “Tartano” was performed by Jiri Mikula and the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra in Olomouc, the Czech Republic in 1997 and recorded on CD by them for the Vienna Modern Masters Label. The pianist Thalia Myers commissioned “Clouds” from him for the Associated Board collection of contemporary British piano music “Spectrum 2” in 1998. Abigail Hyde-Smith premiered this piece at the Wigmore Hall at the launch of this publication and the piece was recorded by Thalia Myers for the double CD “Spectrum” for the NMC label.
Barry Mills music has been broadcast and performed in England and Switzerland and performances have also taken place in Italy and the Czech Republic.
Review: I – The Art Music Lounge – Review 8th January 2020
We return again to the fascinating and often deceptively “normal” music of Barry Mills. Heading up this collection are the Saxophone Sketches played by one Tony Sions, who has the most flute-like alto sax tone I’ve ever heard in my life: soft, bright, liquid, and in this work, bristling with trills. In fact, I’d have to say that Mills’ treatment of the alto sax is flute-like in many respects, and the music itself weaves its chromatic and sometimes pentatonal way through several permutations in the four short pieces that make up this suite which, heard sequentially, sound almost like a continuous piece. As I’ve mentioned before, Mills has a unique way of writing music that almost sounds like “ambient classical” but is much more interesting in its construction, taking the listener through unexpected twists and turns, although in this piece the reliance on small cells of downward and upward-moving chromatic phrases—similar but not identical to the way Debussy treated the flute in some of his music—brings it closer to the French style of composition than most of his works.
By contrast, the Saxophone Quartet seems to emphasize the richness of tone that these instruments can produce, although again Mills’ writing for them is wholly unique. Anchored by the baritone, the quartet is built from the ground up rather than from the top down, if you know what I mean. Not too surprisingly considering its similarity of range, the soprano sax is treated almost like a clarinet and plays that way. Perhaps one reason why the instruments sounded a bit strange to me is that they are so classically played that no vibrato is used, which always takes some richness away from the upper voices (soprano and alto). I’m just so used to the way saxophones are used by American composers, which leans a little more heavily on the way jazz musicians play these instruments, and until Lester Young emerged as a major force in the late 1930s no one was playing the tenor sax with so little vibrato. The music here is no less reliant on chromatic movement, but it also has longer and more formed melodic lines, and these are often given to the baritone and the tenor while the soprano and alto play in double time above them.
In the liner notes, Mills explains that for him the processes of nature are a constant inspiration for his music: “Watching trees moving in the wind, appreciating the freshness of a new day as it unfolds, being aware of the passage of time and the ending of things as day gives way to night are all poignant experiences…” And nowhere on this album is this more evident than in the clarinet solo, The Wind and the Trees, which relies even more on glissandi, here often stopping on notes that are, so to speak, “between the cracks” harmonically. The Duo for Flute and Clarinet inhabits much the same sound-world, but backs off a bit from the glissandi found in the previous piece, and here is it the flute, now whispering, now growling a bit, that is treated differently.
Yet the Guitar Quartet that surprised me even more, using soft thumps on one of the instruments to create a strange opening while the soloists played a number of extended chords, all rather slowly and atmospherically, eventually playing in a polyphonic style with the different “voices” complementing each other. This is a little masterpiece. The English Guitar Quartet combines two regular instruments with a treble guitar and a “classical bass guitar.” Unlike Vol. 2 of his chamber music, the pieces on this CD contrast with each other in sound texture if not in tempo or always in key, thus the Guitar Quartet is followed by the Trio for Flute, Viola and Guitar, music in the same vein but with a different sound texture. In places, Mills has the viola play in its lower range, which almost makes it sound like a cello.
Mills also subverts our expectations in the Harp Sketches, where the instrument is played, in places, one string at a time, only seldom having the player employ the kind of sweeping, “angelic” chords we are used to hearing from this instrument. In this respect, he treats it like a large guitar, and the effect is mesmerizing. Quiet and mysterious, the music floats across your consciousness in short phrases, tremolos and isolated notes.
We conclude this particular journey with the Trio for Flute, Viola & Harp. The strong connection with nature that informed all of the pieces included here is just as strongly evident in this piece, but once again Mills has found new ways to use these three instruments to produce both harmonic and textural effects that are unique.
Another fine album of music from this gifted composer!
© 2020 Lynn René Bayley