ENS.2020.1 | 45′


Act I: Winter Into Spring

1. January

2. February

3. March

4. April

Act II: Spring Into Summer

5. May

6. June

7. July

8. August

Act III: Fall Into Winter

9. September

10. October

11. November

12. December


Calendar is a ballet inspired by John Clare’s The Shepherd’s Calendar. This lovely set of poems by one of the greatest of all nature poets describes the world of a nineteenth-century English village—the rhythms of country life and the countryside surrounding it, inextricably intertwined.

In this piece I have not sought to directly depict Clare’s poems. Instead, I have tried to create abstract musical pictures corresponding to each of the year’s twelve months, Clare’s work serving as inspiration and suggestion, a place to leave from and return to.

Although Calendar tells no specific story, two basic stagings come to mind. First, the months could be imagined as various abstract combinations of groups of dancers, lights, backdrops, and colors suggesting weather, seasons, and festivals. Alternatively, Calendar could be staged more traditionally as a kind of nineteeth-century British Appalachian Spring, following a country village as it moves through the year. Young couples might court, fall in love, and marry, as amusing or tragic vignettes unfold around them in the fields and in the town. Dances and narrative would then follow the course of the year from budding spring through summer planting, fall harvest through to Christmas celebrations, when all begins anew.

Calendar traverses the changing seasons, and the twelve movements are grouped into three acts: Winter Into Spring, Spring Into Summer, and Fall Into Winter. Each act resembles a kind of small symphony, with four movements that share musical material and includes an introduction, slow movement, scherzo, and finale.

The entire ballet is bound together by harmonic, melodic, and textural ideas moving in cycles at different rates. An overarching harmonic structure stretches across all twelve months, intervals circling around one another like planets in a miniature solar system. This architecture is replicated at a smaller scale in my use of what I call fractal polyphony, in which melodies are set heterophonically against themselves, the same musical line moving at different, simultaneously sounding speeds. In this way the melodies create their own self-similar accompaniments, dimensions changing while proportions remain the same.