Symon Clark

The Ring of Brodgar

for Gamelan


duration: 20minutes

The Ring of Brodgar

This ancient stone circle lies on a narrow spit of land between two lochs on the largest of the Orkney Islands. It is at least 5000 years old and some 27 of the original (63) stones are still in place.

Most of the material in the piece is derived from a sequence of 27 chords and the music develops in short contrasting sections, each of which use some or all of the chords in different ways. These short sections in turn form two larger cycles that gradually lead back to the music of the opening. Each section has a title and collectively, these describe a journey around the circle. En route, the music is interspersed with several recurring sections entitled Procession.

Constructing music in cycles is fundamental to the Javanese perception of musical form and development and I have used or adapted some of these techniques in this piece. In most other respects the music occupies very different territory.

Symon Clark was joint winner of the Greater London Arts Association Young Composer of the Year in 1981 and has since written pieces to commissions from Divertimenti, Lontano, the Elysian Wind Quintet, the soprano Kathryn Harries, the pianist Andrew Ball, the London Gabrielli Brass Ensemble (with Jane Manning and Mary King). The Brindisi and Medici String Quartets have also performed his music.

During the last ten years he has concentrated on writing music for Javanese gamelan instruments and several groups have performed his compositions to international acclaim. The Magic Mirror in a BBC Invitation Concert in Manchester and the unusual ballet Toccare, for gamelan, electro-acoustic effects, and ‘western’, flute to a commission from Colourscape Festival in 1995. Strange Attractor and Landscape with Haiku were written especially for ab gamelan (and are now released on CD) and The Dissolving Tree, for voice (Mary King) and gamelan, was performed at the ISCM Festival in Manchester in 1998. He has also written the Spirit’s Pilgrim, for a Javanese gadhon ensemble, featuring mezzo-soprano and alto flute and three new works for ab gamelan ,Bone Shadows, Fugitive Pieces and Bonang Spiritual, all due for performance in 2001 at the International Music Festival in Bremen.

He has also recently composed Echo’s Bones, for clarinet, violin and a gamelan in chromatic ‘western’ tuning, to a commission from the Dutch group Ensemble Multifoon; the piece was performed by them on tour in Holland during 2000. He has also written a ‘western’ percussion piece, Bone Chant, for Ensemble Bash.
Further information can be obtained from Symon’s website at
and the ab gamelan CD is available through

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