One of the methods of development used by contemporary ‘minimalists’ is the use of a motif which is then repeated again and again with a ‘binding’ feature such as a melody leading it into different pitches and tonal areas. Contrast in these pieces is usually provided by the introduction of a different repeated motif in another mood and dynamic. This is the pattern for I am the day
, an unaccompanied work setting a brief Advent text from Revelation chapter 22 describing the promise of the coming of Jesus. It was a Spitalfields Festival commission, first performed in December 1999 by the choir of Trinity College, Cambridge. The key elements are the stillness of the opening bars, marked to be sung ‘with mystery’, and the following scherzo-like music which is ‘dancing and playful’. The second section maintains the melodic element of the first section sung by the basses while the upper voices sing short phrases taken from the Advent hymn O come, O come Emmanuel
. This is highly effective as it acts almost like a distant memory of the hymn—something in the mind which one is trying to remember but, like a folk song learned in the cradle, the whole melody refuses to yield itself fully. The two contrasting elements return before a reflective ending has the trebles and altos gently wafting skywards like rising incense.
from notes by Paul Spicer © 2010