Bronius Kutavičius

Clocks of the Past

Year of composition: 1977
Duration: 16′
Instrumentation: gui-2vn-va-vc

Published scores:
Leningrad: Sovetskij kompozitor, 1984

Released recordings:
LP Melodiya C10-12535-36, 1979
CD Intergation: ambitus Musikproduktion Hamburg amb 96 801, 1999
CD Lithuanian Music in Context I. Lessons of the Avant-garde. - Vilnius, Lithuanian Music Information and Publishing Centre LMIPCCD065-066, 2011


In this composition, Kutavičius returns to his beloved themes – the notions of past and time. Both movements depict clocks, the sundial and the hourglass. The music of the first movement is vivacious, almost improvisatory in character, whereas the music of the ‘sand clock is strictly structured, emitting peculiar sound effects created with various string performance techniques.

The first movement features an unusual system of seven dynamic designations, where the longest notes are the softest, while the shorter ones are the loudest. Minor gestures blend into a five-part counterpoint that gets continuously faster and denser. The intricate motion ends abruptly and only the sound of the solo violin remains audible, until gradually other voices join in. For a while the string quartet proceeds alone, with the occasional interval or chord insertions of the guitar. Eventually, the latter takes over the narrative, while the four voices follow along in the homophonic texture. The movement ends with the recapitulation, a return to the ‘primeval time’, as if depicting the complete cycle of the sun on a sundial.

In the second movement the dynamic values get inverted: the long notes are the loudest, while the short ones are the softest. A low tremolo played on the side of the bridge turns into a noisy ostinato; it is echoed with the rhythms created by finger-tapping the body of the guitar, and accents of the plectrum-struck strings.

Raminta Lampsatis

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