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Cloud Atlas

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Philip Grange

Philip Grange

General Info

Year: 2009
Duration: c. 25:50
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Edition Peters
Cost: Score and Parts - Rental   |   Score Only (print) - $40.00


1. crotchet = 66 – 5:00
2. Capricioso - 2:35
3. Meccanico Sempre - 1:50
4. crotchet = 72 - 5:55
5. crotchet = 72 - 2:20
6. Capricioso – 2:35
7. crotchet = 72 5:35


Full Score
C Piccolo I-II
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III-IV
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV (I-II double D Trumpet)
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Bass Trombone
Euphonium I-II
Tuba I-II
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III, including:

  • Anvil
  • Bass Drum
  • Bell Tree
  • Brake Drum
  • Car Spring
  • Cowbell (2)
  • Glockenspiel
  • Gong
  • Marimba
  • Side Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal (3)
  • Tam-Tam
  • Tenor Drum
  • Vibraphone
  • Vibra-slaps


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

As with a large number of my pieces, this work, written between January 2008 and February 2009, uses literary sources as a starting point. The most important of these is David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas, which consists of a series of stories laid out so that the first starts in chapter one and is completed in the final chapter, whilst the second starts in chapter two and is completed in the penultimate chapter, and so on, with the exception of the middle story which is self-contained. These stories trace a chronology that begins in the nineteenth century and continues well into the future, and there is often an interesting but marginal interconnectedness between them.

By analogy, the seven movements of my work also relate using the same concentric symmetry. The first is connected to the last, with the former consisting of a low and middle register swelling idea upon which a fanfare-like melodic line appears at various intervals. As the movement progresses the lower idea becomes more agitated and invades the register of the fanfare; the music then moves towards a climactic confrontation but stops midstream. The final movement does not start from this point, but rather tries to convey the idea that the disastrous confrontation has taken place and thus, from a quiet distant opening, it moves towards a climactic melodic statement of the fanfare music.

Movements two and six form another connected pair; both are capriccios dominated by the upper registers of the wind band. The movements employ the idea of distorted mirrors, the technique being used in a variety of ways both lineally and vertically to affect both pitch and rhythm. This approach was inspired by the passage in David Mitchell’s novel Black Swan Green where the central character, Jason Taylor, finds himself in a hall of distorted mirrors. These movements, in keeping with the cross referencing employed in Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, also contain passages that refer back to movement one and anticipate movement seven.

The middle three movements form a triptych, the images that inform them coming from H.G.Wells’ novella The Time Machine, with the mechanistic music that comprises movements three and five being inspired by the machine itself. Following a brief accelerating introduction, movement four consists of a series of fast scherzo-like passages that alternate with episodes that start dance-like in the flutes, but gradually transform into violent melodic fragments and dense leaden chords. This was inspired by chapter eleven of Wells’ book, in which the time traveler witnesses the Earth being gradually pulled nearer to the sun, with frightening consequences for animal life on the planet. Although there is a certain degree of symmetry in movement four, with an element of return from the central dense chords, a more thorough reprise of this happens in the second half of movement five. This takes the form of a solo clarinet recitative, as if an individual is now relating the whole experience as a memory.

While the above was certainly crucial to the writing of this piece, of equal importance was the experience of working with Phillip Scott and the National Youth Wind Ensemble between 2005 and 2007 on five performances and a CD recording of my Clarinet Concerto Shēng Shēng Bù Shí ; this provided me with an invaluable insight into the workings of the symphonic wind band.

Cloud Atlas was winner of the 2010 British Composer Awards in the Wind Band/Brass Band category and was featured in a subsequent BBC Radio 3 broadcast.

- Program Note by composer


Commercial Discography

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer