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Nigel Butterley

Nigel Butterley (arr. Bryan Griffiths)

General Info

Year: 1968
Duration: c. 9:00
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Australian Music Centre
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $66.77


Full Score
C Piccolo I-II
Flute I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II-III
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Pentad, written for 27 woodwind and brass instruments, was composed during Butterley’s experimental middle or ‘modernist’ period, which spanned from 1967 to 1973. Works from this period were notably more abstract in aesthetic and often lacked the extra-musical component that much of his music, both prior and following, manifests. Butterley’s best known works — Meditations of Thomas Traherne (1968), Uttering Joyous Leaves (1981), From Sorrowing Earth (1991), and The Woven Light (1994) — are drawn from either religious or poetic texts. At the time of writing Pentad, Butterley was eager to compose what he regarded as ‘fresh music’ and consciously developed a unique structure for this work, rather than simply filling music into any pre-established traditional forms.

The title refers to both the structure and thematic essence of the work, where five distinct motives are heard, each presented a total of five times. Forgoing any formal sequence of their ensuing arrangement, each motive is further developed while either expanding, diminishing or maintaining its length: the work could be simply understood as an absorbing study of motivic trajectory and juxtaposition.

Pentad was the result from a commission by the University of Sydney to celebrate the twenty-first anniversary of the founding of the music department. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO) was engaged for its premiere, to which Butterley knowingly sought to exploit their recent expansion from triple to quadruple woodwinds in his orchestration. It is the first-known work in Australian compositional output specifically for orchestral woodwind and brass forces, and the semblance in tempi and instrumentation to Stravinsky’s seminal work Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920, rev. 1947) is likely not coincidental. Receiving multiple performances by the SSO and far afield as Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble in Chicago attests to the unique and fascinating quality of its composition; its most recent performance was by the Adelaide Wind Orchestra in 2016.

Pentad’s performance at WASBE is an adaption to an ensemble of 24 instruments that was created to aid its accessibility by smaller sized ensembles.

Program Note by Bryan Griffiths for the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Wind Symphony concert program, 11 July 2019

Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

Works for Winds by this Composer

  • Pentad (arr. Griffiths) (1968/2019)


  • Butterley, N. (1968) [1985?]. Pentad: For Wind Instruments [score]. Australia Music Centre: [Sydney].
  • Griffiths, Bryan Wayne. Investigation into Nigel Butterley’s Pentad. 2017. University of Sydney. Master's Thesis.
  • Nigel Butterley website Accessed 18 July 2019