The Metronome Myth

Though I am a composer and pianist to many people, I have also spent my entire career as a double bassist in a major symphony orchestra, the Phoenix Symphony.  I cannot express what a joy it is to make music with so many wonderfully dedicated colleagues in such an intimate setting.  Though an orchestra may not seem intimate, in reality, it is the same as playing with one other person only times sixty, eighty, or a hundred.  True, an orchestra has a conductor, but, in the long run, a conductor is just another member of the orchestra.  The conductor’s job is to facilitate the performance by allowing the members by keep track of what is going on – sort of a musical version of a GPS program.  Of course, many conductors are marvelous and inspiring musicians, but many performers are marvelous and inspiring musicians as well.  It is the totality of the ensemble’s attention and inspiration that contributes to a memorable performance.

Playing together in a large group is not easy.  The presence of a conductor gives the impression that he or she “makes” everybody play together, but this is not so. A conductor “clarifies” what is happening in the music so that we don’t become disengaged from the present moment.  The actual placement in time of the beats in the music is determined by the performers as they listen to each other.  We all have a concept of a “steady beat,” but that concept within an ensemble is continually being altered by how individuals and groups of musicians are playing.

The essence of musicianship is the expression of emotion.  The intensity and release of an emotion is very precise.  Often that precision lies somewhat outside the pattern of continuous steady beats and is, therefore, expressed in some sort of rubato or some other sort of time stretching (or shrinking) mechanism.  In a disciplined ensemble, this sort of time manipulation is accounted for as it happens.  

Ensemble playing is a perfect example of theory vs. reality.  In theory, a tempo is intended to be steady (most of the time), but in reality, the tempo is created by the performers as they perform.  The tempo and rhythm does not control the performance, the performers control the tempo.  The tempo or rhythm is neither right or wrong by itself, but if you are not playing with any- or everybody else, you are wrong.

The metronome was invented in the early 1800’s to help performers learn to maintain a steady tempo.  It may be surprising that most students have trouble with this.  It also was designed to help composers be more precise in their designation of tempo.  Though it has useful applications for practicing or keeping complicated ensemble passages together, many times it is more trouble than it is worth.  Specifying the tempo of a musical work is also not as precise as one might think.  The tempo in a music work will vary depending on 1) the nature of what is being expressed and 2) the nature of the musical space it is being performed in.  This has been most notoriously shown in the music of Beethoven.  Beethoven had to judge the metronome marking by sight, as he could not hear the click.  But even more telling was that he only ever heard the music in his head, which did not have a lot of reverb time!

When you are playing by yourself, a metronome can be somewhat helpful in keeping your sense of tempo honest while practicing.  Most people not only slow down when playing difficult passages, but also speed up when playing easy passages.  The metronome helps guard against those tendencies.  But when playing with others, the tempo must be a mutually agreed upon affair.  The metronome’s tempo is not the “right” tempo, it is just something which is given as being “in the neighborhood.”

The “click track,” which started as the use of a metronome in recorded music, has become a staple of contemporary life in music.  It was of tremendous value in multi-track recording studios because it allows for different tracks of music to be recorded at different times, which was of great benefit to editing.  A click track also became very useful in syncing music with movies and video, as the click track could be synced with the video BEFORE the musicians recorded their parts.  Today click tracks are integral parts of most Broadway musicals; not only syncing the music, but also the lighting and scene changes!  

Performing live movie scores with the movie has become common in today’s orchestras.  Sometimes it is done with click tracks (and conductors) with the musicians wearing headphones.  This is a huge and expensive technical challenge.  You often can’t hear well through headphones, so for orchestral playing, they started using one-eared headphones quite a while ago.  But it is still difficult because the click track and the music are not always together.  You must, of course, be with the music.  Most shows I have done recently have a conductor listening to the click track.  This can be frightening for an uninitiated conductor, as the orchestra is often not with the click track.  The conductor can’t just follow the click track, because he could derail the orchestra, so he just adjusts and tries to get by.  This is not an occasional problem, this is a constant problem!

It has come to bother me, however, that the click track has become the absolute standard for nearly all music written today.  Of course, popular music for the last hundred years or so has had it’s own click track, namely the drummer.  You don’t mess with the drummer!  If the drummer rushes, you rush; it he slows down, you slow down.  This has been the truth forever in popular music.  The drummer is also usually playing loud enough that he can’t hear much of the rest of the group, so they follow him.  In an orchestra, the percussionists are part of the ensemble and are expected to play with everybody else.  It is significant that pop, rock, or jazz groups don’t have more than one drummer!

Click tracks also have a natural affinity with computers.  Computers now control nearly all the music you hear, whether in the media, recording, or live performance.  Almost all classical composers use a computer to write or at least copy their music as well.  Notation programs all produce recordings that have become more and more realistic. Everything in these programs defaults to a constant steady beat (usually m.m.=120), and as a result, almost all music shares that characteristic.  It is easier to write five against four than to change tempo.  The organic nature of accelerandos and ritards can be difficult to deal with in a digital workplace (the math isn’t that simple) so except for special circumstances, they are ignored.  The ebb and flow of tempo so common in something like an orchestra, or romantic music in general, is an obstruction for the computer.  So, as is so often the case, “the medium is the message,” and composers write for the computer instead of making the computer play like an ensemble!  The computer is a wonderful tool, but tools tend to be used in ways which are easy for the tool.  

When I record my own piano improvisations, I don’t use a click track.  I make tempo as fluid as everything else.  I do record in MIDI, however.  The standard MIDI recording interface is something which resembles an old time piano roll.  It has a graph-like representation of the metric grid rolling left to right and a piano keyboard represented up and down.  Pitches and note lengths are represented as horizontal bars; dynamics and other music elements are represented underneath.  There is no insistence upon using this metric grid, but it is used as a backdrop in any case.  Because I do not use the computer program’s grid, however, it does not know what my rhythm is.  It can’t listen to what I am playing and perceive the tempo or rhythm as a person can when playing in an ensemble.  Because of that, it cannot transcribe my music in any kind of intelligible fashion.  And my music does not survive very well being forced into the computers metrics; believe me, I have tried!  But I can transcribe it the old-fashioned way, by listening and writing it down, which is in itself an eye-opening experience.  (There are so many different ways of transcribing a rhythm when it is just a sound with no dominant pulse!)  

So where I am going with all this is that rhythm and tempo are like mathematics; they are useful tools but do not have any existence in themselves.  Their reality is a myth; and what a musician performs either by themselves or with their colleagues is the only true reality.  Rhythm and tempo are not standards to follow or by which to judge, they are suggestions which help communicate the important issues in the music, the emotional and aesthetic content.


A collection of shorter orchestral works by Glenn Stallcop

Orchestra Openers 3COVER

The album Openers features a collection of overtures and tone poems written by Glenn Stallcop over the last forty years. Stallcop, who retired in 2019 after forty-six years as a double bassist with the Phoenix Symphony, wrote three of these works for the Phoenix Symphony. Two of the remaining works were commissioned for youth symphonies in Arizona, and one of the works is new. The Phoenix Symphony has also performed two of his feature length works, Millennial Opening, and City Music (twice), and three of his works featuring string orchestra.

Stallcop, whose orchestral music has covered a lot of ground stylistically over his career, tends to think of his music as post-modern yet performer-centric. He considers the performance experience as paramount, and is intent on creating music that is fun and moving to perform.

Also represented in his compositions is his experience of what amounts to a parallel career as an improvisational pianist. Music from his many albums of solo piano improvisation has found its way into his orchestral compositions, especially his later works. He often uses a transcribed piano improvisation as an initial sketch for his written compositions. This technique was used in two of the latter pieces, Five Bells and Aperitif, but is also used (for the first time) in one of the earlier pieces, Couplet for a Desert Summer.

As the album title suggests, all the works here are meant to be the first piece on an orchestral program. Calypso Round, In Apprehension of Spring, and Sunscape are traditional overtures. Aperitif and Five Bells are opening tone poems such as R. Strauss’s Don Juan or Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. Couplet for a Desert Summer is a fifteen-minute two-movement work that could possibly occupy a different place on a program, but works nicely as a concert opener.

Calypso Round. This driving Latin-tinged eight-minute tour de force hints at minimalism while displaying nearly continuous canonic writing. Originally a mixed quintet for flute, horn, marimba, harp, and double bass written in 1980, it was orchestrated for large orchestra in 2000 for a performance by the Phoenix Symphony, conducted by Robert Moody. [Full article]

Aperitif. This is an, as yet, unperformed ten-minute tone poem for chamber orchestra written in the summer of 2019. It is meant to describe in reunion of old friends for dinner and displays their personalities and interactions. The work also features prominent parts for piano, harp, and marimba. [Full article]

Five Bells. This is a tone poem commissioned by the Arizona Band and Orchestra Teachers Association for the 2010 Arizona All-State Orchestra. It was performed in the spring of 2011 with John Roscigno conducting. It is a musical impression of a haunting elegiac poem of the same name by the Australian poet, Kenneth Slessor. The work is dramatic and features somewhat a ironic reference to R. Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration in the coda. [Full article]

Couplet for a Desert Summer. This is a fifteen-minute two-movement work depicting the two most active times of the day in the desert, dawn and dusk. The work, which was written from 1980-82, is scored for a Classical-era type chamber orchestra plus the addition of metal percussion and piano. The work features characteristic solo wind writing and a prominent piano part. A somewhat fragmented opening to Dawn settles into a long spirited section, a lengthy flute solo ushers in a section representing the rising sun. The movement closes with the mirages beginning to appear as the heat intensifies. Dusk opens with a call in the piano and passed throughout the orchestra. A piano solo ushers the sun to the horizon as the desert becomes alive. The music turns reverent as sunset colors flood the sky, and the music builds as the sky is set ablaze. As the light fades, the music becomes tired and goes to sleep. The works was first performed in Feb. 1984 by the Phoenix Symphony, Clark Suttle, conducting. [Full article]

In Apprehension of Spring. This is an overture commissioned by the Metropolitan Youth Symphony (Mesa, AZ) in 1985 and performed later that year with Wayne Roederer conducting. The work was written for an orchestra entirely under the age of 15, and is written not only for them, but also about them. It is a four-minute pedal-to-the-metal romp. [Full article]

Sunscape. Commissioned by the Arizona Diamond Jubilee Commission for the seventy-fifth anniversary of Arizona’s Statehood, this work was first performed in Nov. 1987 by the Phoenix Symphony with Harold Weller conducting. The work is a celebration of the majestic grandeur of the Grand Canyon State, its dramatic topography and silk-screen horizons. The varied landforms and ecosystems are all dominated by a solar presence that is essential to its character. Sweeping lines and multiple contrapuntal levels blend together to create a eleven-minute flyby of spectacular scenery. [Full article]

All music is published by American Composers Alliance (BMI) and realized through the use of the software NotePerformer.


An overture for orchestra

Canyon1When the Arizona Diamond Jubilee Commission awarded me a commission to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of Arizona statehood, I had a couple of distinct choices for possible approaches.   Arizona has three large and distinct population groups, Anglo, Hispanic, and Native American, each with a proud heritage in the region. One choice would be to somehow combine those cultural traditions into a musical mix of style and purpose. This approach would not only be difficult, it was fraught with ambiguity and implied meaning. Culture is a very sensitive subject and histories of racism and exploitation make the subject that much more difficult.

However, I was asked to commemorate the anniversary of Arizona as a political entity, not a culture; a political organization with lofty aspirations of freedom and equality for all its citizens without regard to race and culture. These ideals, born of the Enlightenment are Classical to the core! In response to this challenge, I decided to write probably my most archetypically Classical work. The style is a modal-tinged Neo-Classicism. The form is textbook sonata-allegro. The texture is woven from continuously dovetailed contrapuntal gestures. Paintings of Arizona are often done by silkscreen; it is a land of multiple horizons. The counterpoint of landforms is represented in the music by a counterpoint of musical ideas of different shapes and size; some sharp and angular, and some broad and sweeping.

Canyon2Furthermore, the one thing all of the people in Arizona share is a love of the spectacular landscape that dominates the Southwest. Sunscape is a portrait of the sweeping grandeur that is the Grand Canyon State. And despite the diversity of landforms and ecosystems, all life in the state is dominated by an intense solar presence that is absolutely fundamental to its character. Each vision of Arizona, whether desert, mountain, canyon, or lake, is a sunscape.

The work was commissioned by the Arizona Diamond Jubilee Commission for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Arizona statehood. It was first performed in November of 1987 by the Phoenix Symphony, with Harold Weller conducting


In Apprehension of Spring

Of the works I have written for orchestra, three were written for youth orchestras. City Music was written for the Seattle Youth Symphony, and to say I did not hold anything back is almost an understatement. Five Bells was a commission for the Arizona All-State High School Orchestra, and though I did not do much to accommodate their youth, I did keep in mind that they would only have two days of rehearsal to put it together. In Apprehension of Spring, on the other hand, was written for an orchestra all under the age of 15. Though they had some impressive facility for their age, I still made some accommodations.

In the fall of 1985, I was asked by composer Grant Fletcher to take over a commission that he felt his other commitments would not allow him to complete on time. Though it was short notice, I was happy to accept the opportunity. The Metropolitan Youth Symphony, a now thriving organization in Mesa, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix), had been established by Wayne Roederer in 1983. They were still a new group in 1985, but they were already making waves in the local music community.

When I went to hear them for the first time back in 1985, I was not only struck by the high quality of the playing, I was moved by the tremendous enthusiasm of the players. I had forgotten what it was like to be an early teenager. So, it evolved that this short overture became a work that was not only for them, but about them as well. The apprehension involved is that of a carnival ride, where you don’t know where you are going, but you are going there fast and having a lot of fun.

The piece is a four-minute romp. I put the piece together more like a rock tune than anything else. A high-energy introduction becomes the main accompaniment pattern for the two verses and chorus. The bridge material in the brass leads to a canonic transition back to the verse. The final chorus brings back the bridge material in the brass and brings it to a rousing close.

In Apprehension of Spring

Couplet for a Desert Summer

A tone poem for chamber orchestra

Couplet for a Desert Summer was my first attempt to derive an orchestral work from a keyboard improvisation. It is not an arrangement but uses the improvisation as an initial sketch. Recording and transcription were a much more time-consuming (and expensive) proposition around 1980 when I started putting together this piece. Analog recording was done on reel-to-reel tape recorders, transcription sometimes having to use slow speed, and replaying a passage over and over to transcribe everything by ear. Though tedious, it was actually a terrific experience, and taught me a great deal about music, especially the fluidity of rhythm!

just add water washMy first sketches (transcriptions) of Couplet for a Desert Summer are from 1980, though I didn’t complete the revisions and orchestration until two years later. It was my first work for chamber orchestra, and it is scored for Classical era instrumentation without trumpets, and with the addition of piano and metal percussion. I tried to take advantage of the solo players, both winds and strings, and also wrote a prominent part for the piano. It was the first time I had used piano in an orchestra work.

Summer in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona is a special time. The piece was written in the summer, and gradually it became a piece about the summer. There is oppressive heat in the summer, of course, but there is also great beauty, dynamic weather (the annual monsoons) and a lot of activity in the natural world. In an essay by Joseph Wood Crutch, the noted nature writer who spent much of his career in the desert outside of Tucson, he lamented that nobody visits the Arizona desert during the summer. The summer is when everything happens. The cactus and ocotillo bloom, the reptiles, birds, insects, and mammals are all active. The Sonoran Desert biome
 is the world’s second most diverse, outside of the rain forest, and it comes alive during the summer, notably at night. In July, the summer monsoon comes to refresh the parched earth and trigger another unique round of activity.

The two movements of Couplet For A Desert Summer describe the two most dynamic moments of every day in the desert, Dawn and Dusk. Dawn starts as the sky begins to brighten; the nighttime activity bleeds into the day. The birds awaken! Sunrise has the coolest temperature of the day and the animal life is at its most active. The music starts haltingly but soon coalesces into an extended lively passage, before a passage for flute and piano announces a section for the rising sun. The movement ends with the mirages beginning to form as the heat starts to build.

The second movement, Dusk, opens with the call to awaken at sunset. A piano solo escorts the sun to the horizon as the wildlife comes out of hiding. A boisterous passage follows for nearly the whole first half of the piece. As the sun begins to set, the music becomes more reverential. The music builds as the sunset colors spread across the sky. At a climatic moment, there is a reference to “Morning” from Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg. It is in the wrong movement. Dawn in the desert is nice, but the sunsets are spectacular!

The work is scored for flute, 2 oboes, clarinet, 2 bassoons, 2 French horns, metal percussion, piano, and strings. The work was first performed in Feb. 1984 by the Phoenix Symphony, Clark Suttle conducting.

Couplet for a Desert Summer – 1. Dawn

Couplet for a Desert Summer – 2. Dusk


A new work for chamber orchestra

Unlike many of the other works I have posted, this work for small orchestra was written within the last couple of months.  Most music I write has a practical purpose of some sort, for a person, group, event, or all of the above, but this piece was started almost on a lark.  The first sessions of working on a piece are always a little mysterious. I have different, sometimes conflicting visions of what I am going to do. For this piece, I let these early ideas also shape the instrumentation, trying to decide what sorts of textures and sounds I wanted to work with.

aperitifI originally thought I was going to write the piece for string orchestra, but I gradually started adding other instruments, until I ended up writing a work for a small chamber orchestra. I was determined to not use un-pitched percussion instruments as I wanted the piece to have a chamber music feel.  The piece has several “swirling” sections and I knew I needed a harp or piano in the mix.  Eventually I decided to use both piano and harp, plus a marimba. I felt I needed to spotlight these instruments to add a special flavor to the piece.  There are no doubles in the winds; they are all playing different instruments. This adds an a la carte character to the piece and heightens the chamber music aspect.

Aperitif is an adaptation of the first track of the piano solo album, Downhill, which will be released later this year (2019).  The album tries to display several examples of a collection of events that seem to flow from an initial trigger.  The series of events seem to flow as easily as a ball rolling downhill. Some triggers, such as an “aperitif,” are relatively harmless, while others, such as lies and arguments, are much less so.  The resulting events can always be slowed or stopped, but not without serious effort and reflection.

The events triggered by Aperitif take the form of social interactions among a group of friends over dinner.  The interactions become more and more personal, sometimes funny, sometimes heartfelt, while at other times being a bit more biting.  The music seems to evolve around certain personalities, one rather facilitating, another stronger and somewhat dismissive, one prone to being a little alarmist, and another one somewhat overly sentimental.  These acquaintances discuss things light-heartedly at first; gradually adding a little more humor and satire until someone becomes a little offended and things become a little uncomfortable. The conversation then begins to dissolve and ends with a promise to get together again.

The work is scored for piccolo, flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, bass trombone, marimba, piano, harp, and strings.  The work is more of a tone poem than an overture, but nevertheless is, not surprisingly, meant to be a concert opener, hopefully triggering wonderful things to follow.


Calypso Round – for orchestra

My only orchestral work that is influenced by Minimalism

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Minimalism was the rage of Classical Music. It was the “rage” in both senses of the word, anger and an enthusiastic fad. I was curious about it, though not really tempted by it until I heard some of the later music of Steve Reich, which I found absolutely infectious. It was right about 1980 when I started to experiment with some minimalist ideas. I worked with these ideas for about 8-12 months before deciding to not pursue it any further, but by then I had written several pieces.

To me, I didn’t see Minimalism as a style, but as a novel and somewhat non-linear approach to musical organization. Those who saw minimalism as a style tended to emphasize the repetition, but I was more interested in the organization of the changes. Traditional musical structure is organized like a story, in sequential blocks. But music can have several different levels of activity going on at the same time. Though traditional music has this capacity as well, Minimalism’s use of repeated material allows these different levels to be very clearly defined. I was interested in using Minimalist techniques to create a large-scale hierarchical structure with different levels changing at different speeds. The idea is similar to how an Indonesian Gamelan works, with some instruments playing every eighth note while some larger gongs are playing only once every eight or sixteen bars. My interest in this aspect of Minimalism actually aligns me more with John Adams than Reich, Phillip Glass, or Terry Riley, but I didn’t hear any of Adams music until about six years later.

The work below was an early attempt at this technique and sounds quite Minimalist. Each instrument plays nested patterns of different lengths (cello 2 beats, viola 4 beats, Violin II 8 beats, and Violin I 16 beats). Pattern changes occur at the level of Violin I. Every 16 beats one of the four instruments changes its pattern. The changes are organized in a large-scale hierarchy like a Gamelan. If you were to listen all the way through, you would hear that the final collection of patterns is the same as the beginning.

String Quartet 1980

Calypso Round is one of my later works following this Minimalist path. I originally wrote the work for Flute, French Horn, Marimba, Harp, and Double Bass. I wrote a concert of chamber works with various combinations of these instruments, and Calypso Round was supposed to be the finale. I found, however, that the music I had written seemed to be very difficult. I cancelled my plans for this particular concert and massaged my approach so that it was more generalized and forgiving (and therefore easier), eventually writing a concert for two violins and double bass.

Though most of the other works I wrote for the original concert were eventually performed, Calypso Round remained unperformed for twenty years. It was partly due to the difficulty of the work and partly due to its unusual collection of instruments. In 1999, I decided to orchestrate the work and showed it to Robert Moody, the resident conductor with the Phoenix Symphony, who programmed it for the next year. (The original performance was done with some dancers from Ballet Arizona.)

The difference between Calypso Round and the String Quartet is that I liberate the musical material from the instruments in which it is introduced. The result is that some of the musical patterns are tossed between different instruments, often sounding like imitation, or even a round, hence the name. Since the patterns can sometimes occur in instruments of different registers, they lose their identity as “levels” of sound, becoming instead just musical ideas or motives. This makes the piece sound less like Minimalism and more like normal dance music. Eventually in my investigation into Minimalism, I started to add free material and variations to the patterns, which dissolved the effect even further. at which point I just absorbed what I had learned from the experiment and moved on to something else.

Calypso Round is scored for a lavish orchestra – 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 4 French Horns, 3 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, Bass Trombone, Tuba, Timpani, 3 Percussion (Mallet Instruments – Marimba, Xylophone, Glockenspiel) (Non-pitched Percussion Instruments – Quijada (Jawbone), Triangle, Timbale, Slapstick, Bell Plate) (Drum Set), Piano, Harp, and Strings. It is the only orchestra work I’ve written which includes a drum set, and I found it to be a lot of fun.

Calypso Round

A Wake At Night – for nine strings

An example of the breakthrough of NotePerformer

Procuring a reasonably good demo recording of the pieces I have written has always been a frustrating chore. Many good performances of my music have gone unrecorded, or badly recorded. The good recordings I have received I have treasured like gold, but many were obtained with strings attached that did not allow me to publish them online.

Composed music began moving to computer about thirty-plus years ago, and notation programs started including some sort of playback feature a few years later. It was a breakthrough to be able to hear what you wrote immediately, and it changed composing forever. But the actual sound of those playback tools has always been, in a word, atrocious!

This is no longer the case. Sibelius, Finale, and, now, Dorico have been improving the tolerability of their sounds for a decade or more, but the release of NotePerformer, an independent artificial-intelligence sample library designed to be used with written notation software, has finally crossed the line of believability. It is available for all three notation platforms. It is probably best suited for Sibelius, but I have been using it with Dorico which is the software I have come to prefer.

NotePerformer uses multiple iterations of solo sounds to create the sound of a section, instead of using a different sound. It randomly offsets the individual sounds to give the “halo” effect so characteristic of strings, for instance. The AI is built in to the interpretive/musicality aspect of the program, but if you don’t like what it does you can add instructions (i.e. – legato, detaché, etc.) to change its approach to the music. It reads articulations and most instructions (pizz, snap pizz, pont., marcato, etc.). Dorico does not read glissando/portamento indications as yet, though Sibelius does. Sibelius also maps several different brass mutes, while Dorico only offers straight mute.

As an example, I thought I would use a work I wrote for nine solo strings, (4 violins, 2 violas, 2 celli, and double bass). I wrote this piece in 1993 and I performed it with some of my colleagues from the Phoenix Symphony. But there was something wrong with the original recording and I couldn’t use it. None of the other performances have been recorded so I have had to present the work using a old MIDI recording. I hated it. MIDI recordings of strings have always been the most cringe-worthy. Strings have such a complicated sound with such richness and variety, reproducing them has been nearly hopeless. Not anymore. The NotePerformer performance below is maybe not equivalent to a live performance, but it is very realistic.

The piece, A Wake At Night, is derived from a long improvised melodic line. All of the other accompanying material is derived from that melodic line and surrounds the part of the melody it was derived from. The title has multiple meanings, but the primary one refers to this structure. The melodic line is the “boat” and the surrounding material is the “wake” which has been generated by the boat. At night the wake shimmers with phosphorescence, and thus it is a metaphor for the swirling material surrounding the melody, which is often more prominent than the original.

G. Stallcop: A Wake At Night (1993) – for nine strings