The rhythmic Sextet (June-September, 1982) was commissioned by the San Francisco Contemporary Players as part of the National Endowment for the Arts Consortium Commissioning Project. It is dedicated to Marcella De Cray and Jean-Louis Le Roux, co-directors of that ensemble. The scoring is for flute/alto flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, percussion, harp, violin and cello. My intention was to write a dramatic piece that drew from the complete technical, coloristic and textural resources of this combination.
There are six large sections, played without interruption, in which the treatment is both developmental and kaleidoscopic. Although each section has its intrinsic design, the source of material is mainly provided by the first section whose melodic-rhythmic gestures, sonorities and textures are generic to the remaining five...
— Wayne Peterson
My three pieces presented here were written early in the eighties and show variant aspects of a compositional technique and expressive world that had been fermenting for a number of years. Like many composers of my generation and background, my own musical experiences and sensibilities have been diverse, perhaps contradictory, and the solo piece on this record demonstrate a synthesis of the artistic impulses and technical concerns that had preoccupied me over the preceding decade. Perhaps the simplest way to indicate these is to list a few influences and reference points: on the “high art” end, the music and musical thought of composers such as Babbitt and Wolpe, Martino and Davidovsky; from oral tradition American music, rhythmic and phrasing effects in the performances of, say, Charlie Parker, Aretha Franklin, or Thelonious Monk. The urge to bring these, and of course many other, things together has informed my efforts to develop pitch and phrasing structures, large-scale continuities, and so forth, that will sustain spontaneous nuances as much as global coherence... — Martin Brody
Quintet, for clarinet, string trio, and piano, demonstrates the elegance and facility
of John Stewart McLennan's scoring, and his gift for melodic invention within an essentially atonal harmonic idiom. The work has both the tension of an unanswered question, and the austere peace of a New England snowscape.
It was composed during the winter of 1987-88. Some small portions of the score were based on a work for clarinet and piano, which McLennan set aside years before, because, he says, “I liked the idea more than the preliminary sketches.” The present work is not a rethinking of the earlier piece. It is virtually all newly composed. — Steve Elman