Contours (2005)
trumpet and drums

This is a set of eight short pieces for 19-division trumpet and percussion, written for duo Contour in December 2004. The first piece is for trumpet alone, the second and seventh for percussion alone, the rest are for the two players together. Nos. 1, 2 and 3 form a symmetrical group which is reflected in Nos. 6, 7 and 8 . Pieces 4 and 5 are contrasted: No.4 is a miniature 'moto perpetuo' for trumpet and 3 drums, while No. 5 is a brief slow movement for trumpet and 3 suspended cymbals. Bearing in mind the antecedents of 19-division tuning in the various forms of 'mean-tone' temperament developed in the 16th century, I have used adjacent pitches as alternatives, ie. as refinements rather than extensions of the tonal range; this is most evident in the 5th place, where substitutions are brought into play (C#/ D-flat, etc.) to create an effect analogous to the intonational shifts of mean-tone temperament. (MP)


Michael Parsons was born in Lancashire in 1938.  He was educated at Christ¹s Hospital and studied classical languages, philosophy and literature at St. John¹s College, Oxford (1957-61) and piano and composition at the Royal College of Music (1961-62).  Since 1962 he has been active as a composer, performer, teacher and lecturer.  He belongs to the generation of English experimentalists who, in the 1960s and 70s, explored a wide range of radical alternatives to prevailing mainstream and avant-garde tendencies in new music.  In 1969 he was a co-founder, with Cornelius Cardew and Howard Skempton, of The Scratch Orchestra , and during the 1970s he was closely associated with visual artists of the Systems group.  In common with work by other English and American experimentalists, his music exemplifies an economical use of material, clarity of structure and an objective approach to the actualities of sound and performance.  He has written works for piano solo and duet, for various instrumental combinations (including Changes of 1981 for Javanese gamelan instruments) and for computer-controlled electronic sound (including Tenebrio of 1995, a commission for BBC Radio 3).  He has made installations in association with exhibitions of visual work by artists working in the tradition of European constructivism.  His vocal compositions include Expedition to the North Pole , an experimental staged work (1984) and a work for large mixed chorus (1988), both on the theme of Arctic exploration; Lamentations (1997) for 8 voices and instruments (Innsbruck Easter Festival commission) and two Choral Odes (1997-98) with texts from the Antigone of Sophocles.  Recent performances and commissions include: Aktive Musik, Germany 1998; Per/SON Festival, Cologne, January 1999; Musik Forum, Bavarian Radio, February 2000 (composer portrait); Innsbruck Easter Festival, Austria 1998 & 1999; Three Two Festival, New York, October 1998; Angelica Festival, Italy 1999; Risonanze, Venice, May 2000.

Recording (clicking on link opens a new window): HIGH, LOW