Little Kingdoms

ENS.2003.2 | 11′
3 Clarinets


1. The Little Kingdom of J. Franklin Payne

2. The Princess, the Dwarf, and the Dungeon

3. Catalogue of the Exhibition

I have always been fascinated by patterns. It was only a matter of time before this obsession began to creep into my music, eventually coming to dominate it. In 2003 I began to play with making pieces entirely out of eighth notes, culminating in the Music for Dancing series, composed between 2003 and 2005, which originally included Little Kingdoms as well as Cup and Saucer in the Path of a Mechanical Insect, Seascape, with frieze of girls, Sad Little Breathing Machine, The Acme Novelty Library, and Music for Los Angeles.

Though nearly all of those works have since been rewritten, revised, or withdrawn, they shared a common compositional impulse: rhythmic and harmonic materials were conceived independently and then superimposed upon one other in different ways and at different rates, utilizing systematic structures based on permutations to create a network of new, continuously shifting musical relationships.

Named after an extraordinary, magical set of novellas by the author Steven Millhauser, the three movements that now comprise Little Kingdoms began as part of a larger piece for woodwinds entitled After the Quake, based on the book by Haruki Murakami. Later I realized only these movements belonged together, and as they conjured a nocturnal world closer to Millhauser than Murakami they were reordered, revised, and retitled accordingly.

In The Little Kingdom of J. Franklin Payne the clarinets outline shifting repeated patterns over slowly changing harmonies, while The Princess, the Dwarf and the Dungeon lurches along, exhausting every possible three-part harmonic combination within an octave. Finally, in Catalogue of the Exhibition two melodic lines of different lengths chase each other’s tails across an eerie harmonic moonscape, the three clarinets threading both lines through an intricate double hocket.