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About Sky and Water

As a guitarist myself, composing a piece for the classical guitar has been something I have planned to do for a very long time. Inspired by M. C. Escher’s print of the same name, Sky and Water was composed in collaboration with Thai guitarist Chinnawat Themkumkwun as part of the Twisted Spruce Online Symposium 2020. Drawing from the transitional elements of the print, the piece explores the noise-to pitch spectrum and moves from a focus on timbral shifts to a harmonic world derived from Takemitsu’s ‘S-E-A’ motif, as well as aleatoric elements to allow the performer some freedom within the work.


The piece begins with a section focusing purely on changing colours between noise and pitch (and what is in between). This section is notated in time brackets, allowing the guitarist to explore the sounds with a degree of freedom and to discover more character in the simple arpeggiated patterns than strict notation would allow. Following a short interlude, the music transitions into a harmonic soundworld created through exploration ofTakemitsu’s ‘S-E-A’ motif, with lines and harmonies growing and developing until a climax at the end of the section. A second interlude then appears, drawing from and expanding on the material from the first with a very simple three note melody growing in the treble. This then leads into the final section, where agitated tremolo lines are contrasted against moments of silence with the noises from the first section returning to transition between these ideas. Chinnawat’s tremolo technique is extremely strong, so we decided to take advantage of this technique within the work, whilst further exploring the pitch-tonoise spectrum. These tremolo lines grow the pieces climax before finally fading away to silence with the same noise arpeggios which Sky and Water began with.


Whilst the piece is not programmatic, performer interpretation of the material is strongly encouraged through the use of tasteful rubato, particularly during the free time sections. Performer expression was extremely important within the creation of the piece, as I wanted Chinnawat’s voice to be just as present as my own. 


Following the premiere of Sky and Water on October 8th 2020 by ChinnawatThemkumkwun, the piece has been performed at the St. Petersburg International New Music Festival “” by Alexy Potapov,

with additional performances in Germany and Denmark. Sky and Water is dedicated to my collaborator,

Chinnawat Themkumkwun.

Sky and Water by Jake Adams

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