New Music Friday: The Changing Timepiece

This work is a set of brief variations based on the theme from the slow movement of Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 101. This symphony is nicknamed “The Clock” due to the “tick-tock” effect that you will hear accompanying the theme. The first variation features the cellos playing a new melodic idea against the first violins embellishing Haydn’s theme. Variation two is slow, and its mood suggests an imaginary Russian folk song. The third variation is a jaunty march, while the fourth has a more contemporary feel through its rhythmic patterns. Variation five is a waltz with the violas leading the way while the cellos follow them. The sixth variation uses fragments from the theme to create a mysterious mood, leading to the final variation, which is a bright and energetic conclusion.

About The Changing Timepiece

This work was created to be a teaching tool. Depending on what the students already were exposed to, this piece offers a chance to deal with changing time signatures, changing key signatures, changing tempi, col legno technique, subito, Grand (General) Pause, tremolo, what are variations, and what an old-fashioned analog ticking clock sounds like, as well as historical information about Haydn and his symphonies.

The conductor needs to be aware that, from measure 154 to the end, the parts substitute sixteenth notes with eighth and quarters with slashes through the stems (i.e., measured tremolo).

The composer hopes that the conductor will stress the importance of hairpin crescendi and diminuendi to the students. And if necessary, for a good subito pianissimo at m.160, feel free to cut off the whole note of m.159 on beat 4.

While not indicated, the conductor may wish to have some or all of Variation 6 played “sul ponticello” to give it a more mysterious feel.

Tempo markings are deliberately generic so as to allow the conductor flexibility for each variation.

About Allen Molineux

Allen Molineux received a B.M. degree in composition from DePauw University, an M.M. in composition from the Eastman School of Music, and a D.M. in composition from Florida State University. In addition, he attended the Lukas Foss Workshop at Indiana University in 1981, Gunther Schuller’s 1986 Atlantic Center for the Arts Workshop, and Pierre Boulez’s Carnegie Hall Workshop in 1999.

For 35 years, he taught at several universities and colleges, such as Theory, Composition, Arranging, Counterpoint, Form and Analysis, Band, Orchestra, and Jazz Ensemble. He is now retired from teaching, which has given him more time to compose.

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