When Crows Gather draws on a series of musical diary entries from a single morning early in December 1985 when a throng of crows — something over a hundred — settled in the trees outside my studio and let fly with their strident calls for the better part of an hour. Rattled, I recalled reading that the gathering of crows is one of the signs used by the Farmer's Almanac to predict a severe winter. There followed various musical ruminations on winter, troubled always by the maddening din of the crows — which, as it happens, are clearly evoked only at the end of the piece.
When Crows Gather is scored for three clarinets (the first and second doubling piccolo clarinet and E-flat clarinet, the second and third doubling bass clarinet), violin, cello, and piano. It is in nine principal segments, played without pause; the pitch material of each generated in some fashion by a single three-note group.
— Lewis Spratlan