snapshot of score of Variations on a theme of George Harrison

Variations on a theme of George Harrison

for septet — 1975

The theme is not one of George Harrison’s Beatles or post-Beatles songs, but a curious little waltz called Red Lady Too from the music he produced, mainly in Bombay (as it was then known), in 1968 for the even more curious film Wonderwall. The theme has two contrasting sections, one entirely diatonic in D minor and the other with a chromatically downwards-sliding harmonic progression. This seemed to me to lend itself to the process of variation.

I’ve always had a penchant for low instruments, which I indulged in this piece by choosing an ensemble of bass clarinet, trombone and double bass with harp, keyboards (celesta and clavinet) and two percussionists playing wood and metal instruments but no skins (the vibraphone is shared, perc.2 playing it from the ‘wrong side’). There’s a good deal of fairly free, unmeasured notation, so the duration is variable. My MIDI recording (below) lasts twenty minutes.

Score extract (PDF)


Performances / broadcasts / ‘real’ recordings

Listen to MIDI version (20:20)