Octet – Continual Awakening

 Trombone Octet – 6 tenor, 2 bass
Duration:                  5 minutes
Year:                          2009


Program Notes

    Described as “a unique and deftly-crafted work” (Canadian Music Centre), Continual Awakening was inspired by a conductor’s plight with anterograde amnesia.

In the fall of my first semester of undergraduate studies at UBC, a number of student composers were invited to write music for an innovative project led by the RedShift Music Society.  They have specialized in hosting concerts in venues outside the concert hall, and for this occasion we would be writing in the Forestry Sciences Building.  Apart from being a hub for undergraduate students and a backdrop for films (like “The Eye”), the acoustic properties of the inner sanctuary also attracts new music aficionados who seek to push the boundaries in spatial music.  The trombones were placed around the inner sanctuary in all three levels.  In order to synchronize the players , a stopwatch system was used as there were no hopes of taking cues from a conductor who was three stories below you.  In the midst of all these new restrictions, I came up with a piece that I thought was effective in what it was trying to say.

    The music itself was inspired by the tragic story of the conductor named Clive Wearing.  I took an introductory psychology class in my 1st semester, and although I dropped the course, I took away a story of a man who was plagued by anterograde amnesia.  This meant that Clive Wearing could not form any lasting short term memories, and lived in a state of what he called “Continual Awakening”, whereby he would fall into a lapse and then wake up not being able to remember a thing about his past.  I wanted to explore the concept of “Continual Awakening” with this spatial trombone piece.  The idea was that I would continually use the same motif (F,F, Eb,F) with little developement.  The lack of expansion represents the return to a natural state of being at the start of each playing.

Premiere Performance

  • Jan 20, 2010, Slide Rule Trombone Choir
    University of British Columbia, Forestry Building
    Vancouver, BC, Canada


June 2015 – reviewed on Glissando Magazine – Michael Dease, reviewer.

The third selection, [Corr. Roydon Tse’s Continual Awakening] stole my attention with its pulsing stabs, effective soundstage panning and the wonderfully tense release as the plunger-muted trombone choir enters for the first tutti chord…Bennett never fails to set a mood.”

May 2015reviewed on Fanfare Magazine – David DeBoor Canfield, reviewer.  More info.

Roydon Tse’s contribution to the concert is his Continual Awakening for eight trombones.  Here the virtuosity level is notched up several degrees given the quick tongued figures that are tossed around from one instrument to the other…It’s certainly an impressive technical achievement for the performer”

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