Janus Turns

Year of composition: 2014
Instrumentation: mixed ensemble (15 players)
Duration: 14’00

Written for the Wellesley Composers Conference

Premiere: Musicians of the Wellesley Composers Conference, James Baker, cond.
Wellesley, Mass.
July 30, 2014

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Score excerpt


In Roman religion and myth, Janus was viewed as the god of beginnings and transitions, and was depicted as having two heads, facing both forwards and backwards. In his association with passages he came also to represent the passing of time, looking into both the past and the future.

Janus Turns is a sort of meditation on this guardian of gateways, looking both forwards and backwards for its inspiration. Specifically, it reimagines the circle-of-fifths progression inherent to diatonic tonal music, newly purposed here beyond a mere agent of transition or modulation–the cycle is itself elevated to the primary idea of the work, undergoing various developmental procedures  (permutation, superimposition, etc.) over its course. The extremes of manipulation to which the cycle is subjected draws in part from Gerard Grisey’s concept of “time foliation”, which suggests the possibility of alternate temporalities coexisting within the same musical space.


-third prize, 2015 SOCAN Foundation Young Composer Awards (Sir Ernest MacMillan category)

McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble, Guillaume Bourgogne, cond.
Multi-Media Room, McGill University, Montreal
Oct. 20, 2014