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Overture in Feet and Meters

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Aaron Jay Kernis

Aaron Jay Kernis

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General Info

Year: 2000 / 2015
Duration: c. 10:00
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: G. Schirmer
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Overture in Feet and Meters began its life as the first movement of Aaron Jay Kernis’s Pulitzer Prize-winning String Quartet No. 2, “musica instrumentalis”. The quartet, composed in 1997, draws its inspiration from Renaissance and Baroque dance forms. Kernis cites an interest in J.S. Bach’s keyboard dance suites and pieces from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book as influential in the creation of the work.

When the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra commissioned Kernis to write a piece in honor of Hugh Wolff, in his final season as conductor and music director of the ensemble, the composer chose to expand the orchestration of the quartet’s opening movement to suit the orchestra while retaining all of its structural elements. In addition to broadening the palette of color in the form of winds, percussion, and section strings, Kernis added the more descriptive title as a reference the piece’s dance influence and frequent meter changes.

About the string quartet music that eventually would become Overture in Feet and Meters, the composer writes:

The first movement is a kaleidoscope, an overstuffed medley of many types of dances played separately and sometimes simultaneously. It is in three large sections. The first section is an exposition of many different strands of energetic music, while the second opposes two gentler dances, the Canzonetta and a Musette. The final section brings back most of the diverse elements the opening in many varied guises and leads to a climactic uncovering of a simple direct version of the main tune of the movement.

Overture in Feet and Meters was premiered by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra on April 26, 2000, with music director Hugh Wolff conducting. Steven Knight collaborated with the composer to create the wind ensemble version of Overture in Feet and Meters receiving its premiere performance University of Texas Wind Ensemble concert on 22 November 2015.

- Program Note from University of Texas (Austin) Wind Ensemble concert program, 22 November 2015


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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Kernis, A. (2000). Overture in Feet and Meters [score]. Associated Music Publishers: New York, N.Y.