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Tom's Turn

For Clarinet

Composition Date: 1992

Duration: 3'

Instrumentation: Solo Clarinet



First performed by Robert Plane, 1996.

Programme Note:



for solo clarinet or saxophone

I wrote Tom's Turn in 1992 when I was enrolled on a course for composers, players, choreographers and dancers at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.

The course was given by the Ultima Vez company, with tutors Thierry de Mey and Wim Vandekeybus. Composers were asked to bring a short 'calling card' with them - a specially written piece that they could imagine being danced to.

I called mine Tom's Turn because I had dedicated a couple of pieces to my first son, Laurie, but nothing yet to Tom, who was 18 months old at the time. It was his turn. The title also refers to a 'turn' - as in a short performance.

I'd been told there would be a saxophonist there, but I had used such a wide range in the piece that it was impractical to perform. In the end the piece was programmed into music software on a keyboard, and played as a canon - which worked, to my amazement - because the music is constructed largely of fourths. I was very excited by this and could see how technology might be a wonderful aid to creativity, but it was years before I actually learnt to use any kind of music software myself.

This version was choreographed and danced by a solo dancer - my first experience of writing for dance, and one which remained with me as hugely inspirational, although I didn't get to write for dance again for many years.

I published the piece for solo clarinet, and it was premiered a few years later by Robert Plane.

When Tom was 12, and a good trumpeter, I was commissioned to write a concerto for Swedish trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger, and in honour of Tom, I used the canon version of Tom's Turn as the basis for the first movement.

In 2020 I was approached by Rob Buckland asking if I had anything for solo saxophone. I suggested he had a look at Tom’s Turn, saying I thought the range was too big for saxophone. But Rob didn’t have a problem, and the piece now exists in the version I intended.

Sally Beamish 2021


Available Recordings:

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