Weighed Down by Light: for Contrabass Clarinet and Fixed Media

Tom Williams (Artist)

Research output: Practice-Based and Non-textual ResearchComposition

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‘Weighed Down by Light’ was commissioned for a Sound Agendas concert inSheffield by the leading British bass clarinetist, Dr. Sarah Watts; it was the first piece composed for her contrabass clarinet.


In a close collaborative performer/composer dialogue we developed the idea of a quasi-concerto electroacoustic work, which for performance mobility had no live processing. The composer/performer dialogue explored the contras characteristics to find suitable lyrical, dynamic, timbral and rhythmic elements to exploit the capability and range of the instrument.  The fixed media is conceived as an electroacoustic extension of the live: it timbrally reinforces and duets with the live instrument using source material generatedin the collaborative process. The opening measures present the underpinningnote series that pervades and unites the musical argument.  The work is episodic and cyclic in form.


A key compositional aim was to ‘humanize’ multiple iterative computer-generated rhythms. The solution found was by developing a specific Kyma 7 ‘Sound’ that generated rhythmic material where every discreet articulation was always different. This was used in three rhythmic episodes(see score: A, B, & D). It was recognised that to ensure rhythmic tightness to the fixed media a third, click track was needed.


The work’s compositional vision is linked to Alice Oswald’s poem, ‘ColdStreak’, from her collection ‘Falling Awake’.   The notion of the relentlessness of time, which underpins the music’s conception, is articulated in the poem in the line:  ‘dazzling stubbornness of the sun keeping to its clock’. The composition extemporizes on themes in the poem that include expressive comments in the score, such as, ‘light’ and also, ‘heavy’.


Performances have included SABRE DayFestival, Zurich, SEAMUS 2019 (Society of Electroacoustic Music USA) at Berklee College of Music, Boston, Noisefloor 2019 Festival, Staffs. and the Rarescale concert, Keele University.  Recorded at the Tank, Coventry University a video performance of the complete work is on You Tube and has had over 550 views.

Original languageEnglish
Media of outputScore plus media
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2018
EventSounds Agenda Composers' Conference - Soundings concert – Sarah Watts (bass clarinet) at DINA: Soundings - Sheffield University, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Duration: 29 Apr 201829 Apr 2018

Additional Information

First performance as part of the Sound Agendas Composers Conference, Sheffield University - DINA 29/3/2019

Second Performance:1/8/2018, at the Rarescale Summer Academy, Harlaxton Manor, Sarah Watts performer.

Performance confirmed in Zurich at SABRe, 2/1/2019.

Performance at the SEAMUS 2019 (Soc. Electroacoustic Music USA) at Berklee College of Arts, Boston, March 23rd 2019.
Presentation of piece at Composers' Forum, Boston University, CFA, March 26th 2019
Performance at Noisefloor Festival 2019, Staffordshire, May 8th, 2019
Performance at Rarescale at Keele University (PRS for Composers


  • music composition
  • electroacoustic music
  • contrabass clarinet


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