Standing Water

for twelve players

Phillip Neil Martin

Logged-in user discounts applied
Log in to get discounts (now or at checkout)
Ask us about multi-copy choral discounts


for twelve players

Ask about this work
Composer Phillip Neil Martin
Year of Composition 2005
Duration ca.8'


, , , , , , , , , ,

Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-pnm1sw1


The title Standing Water is taken from William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’. Standing Water was influenced by my recent research of gagaku (traditional Japanese court music) in Japan. The piece explores concepts of time, the Western marking of time as a line, the Eastern concept as cyclic, and the accumulation of time as space in traditional Japanese music. The idea of water filling space to measure time is the traditional way of measuring the passing of time in the East in contrast to the Western sundial that created a line to mark the time of day. The basis of Standing Water is therefore three shapes, a line, a circle and a square (referring to the spatial aspects of gagaku performance) and it is upon these shapes that the structure of Standing Water is built.

Standing Water explores the collision of linear and cyclic time and the experience of various forms of stasis, both rhythmic and harmonic. The motivic foundations of the piece are formed from a gagaku melody and the harmonic basis is a complex expansion of sho harmony. Gagaku also influenced the type of material written for the instrumental sections e.g. the string textures are influenced by the plucked non-melodic string lines of gagaku, as well the areas of textural and colour separation (a common feature of traditional Japanese music). I was also interested by the ‘dirty’ tuning system of gagaku (a controversial musicology question about authentic performance traditions post Meiji Restoration) and the traditional performance of gagaku outdoors at temples and shrines, mixing the music with ambient sound.

The piece is often loud, driven and structurally fragmented plotting a basic move from West to East punctuated by polarised ‘aksak’ pulsations and running semiquavers, interspersed by simpler, quiet, static passages. It is my first response after exploring a music that I find both beautiful and beguiling.

The work is dedicated to the Japan Foundation with my humblest thanks for their wonderful support during my Uchida Fellowship trip to Japan in 2005.