STYLUS for recorder (or any of the following: violin, flute, oboe, clarinet), viola and accordion. 1990. Commissioned by Peter Hannan, Douglas Perry and Joseph Petric with a grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Part of the SPRING EQUINOX project. 7 minutes.

STYLUS for string quartet. 1990. Part of the SPRING EQUINOX project. 7 minutes. Score and parts available through PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.


Stylus is the third piece in an ongoing series of compositions based on Johann Sebastian Bach's The Art of the Fugue collectively called Spring Equinox. It is a palimpsest on Contrapunctus VII. As the title suggests, my only means of acting upon the Bach original was the compositional equivalent of the effect of a skipping phonograph stylus. I was intrigued by the possibility of changing the semantic continuity of Bach's music by means of strategically-placed asymmetrical repetitions. By using (1) repetitions within repetitions, (2) phasing repetitions (the left or right bracket advances or retreats by a sixteenth-note after each iteration) and (3) by occasionally choosing similar beginning and end points which result in continuous melodic and contrapuntal flow within a loop, I sought to create a composition which parallels that of Bach, but has, never-the-less, a character and style of its own. With regards to instrumentation, Stylus was originally composed for tenor recorder, viola and accordion for recordist Peter Hannan, violist Douglas Perry and accordionist Joseph Petric. A subsequent version for string quartet also exists. To date neither version has been performed in public.

Premiere performance: June 6, 1998 by members of the Tafelmusik baroque orchestra; St. Andrew's United Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

For more information on the make-up of this work, read the essay: The Art of the Palimpsest: Compositional Approaches to the Music of J. S. Bach


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