Constable's Clouds



Additional Information

A short work for string quartet in four sections which follow without a break.

This piece was inspired by an exhibition of Constable's works under the same title at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 28 April - 16 July 2000.  It does not evoke any one picture, but more the typical images portrayed by Constable.

Misty Dawn     Andante  3/4  B minor

The cold grey half-light of a misty dawn giving way to a hazy sun is depicted in a number of Constable's pictures.  This is portrayed in sound with the addition of a song thrush heralding the dawn chorus.  The section opens with the ambiguous resolution of diminished seventh chords representing mist and the emergence from darkness.

Summer Day    Allegro moderato  4/4  D major

The summer day is perhaps the most typical of Constable’s output, with the cumulus clouds of bright and breezy weather being his favourite subject.  The sounds which might be associated with this, the wind, a skylark singing, waves on ponds and rivers, form the core of the music.  There is reference to the "Lark" Quartet of Haydn, which was being played at the time of the composer's viewing.

Storm               Moderato  5/4  A major

Constable’s storm pictures often show the contrast of the last rays of a bright sun against the gathering black clouds.  The image is reinforced in sound by the song of the storm cock.  The sound of the approaching storm is emphasised in the music by the addition of the flat seventh to the three primary triads.   This is strictly the note with frequency ratio 7/4 to the tonic, as in the seventh natural harmonic.  However, in the tempered scale, it can be taken as 1/3rd of a semitone below a major seventh.  It is less harsh than a major seventh and it is therefore used freely without preparation.  It is shown in the score as a quarter tone flat sign.

Sunset              Largo  6/8  D major

Sunset scenes are usually similar to the dawn scenes, but Constable perhaps focuses more on the red clouds than the grey mist and often the sun is reflected in water.  This is represented by answering phrases with inverted motion.  The song thrush can be heard again, but gives way to owls at the close.  This section is derived from the same material as the first section but is presented in reverse order.  This time the ambiguous diminished chords represent the fading light.


Score file