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Lewis Spratlan

Publisher: AMP

When Crows Gather (1985)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
Mixed Ensemble
Year Composed
18 Minutes
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Programme Note
Lewis Spratlan When Crows Gather (1985)
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

When Crows Gather was inspired by an incident one December morning when a throng of crows gathered in trees outside Spratlan's studio. In the onrushing opening section, the instruments evoke wintry winds through swooshing, darting thematic lines, before the music settles into a loopy dance. An Ivesian episode follows in which chorale-like evocations of summertime parlor songs and a near-inaudible piano rag are jabbed by spiky counterpoint for strings...The arresting piece is [filled with] complex and gritty language.
Anthony Tommasini , New York Times,1/1/0001
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