Aspects of the Night Sea Crossing:

A project to create an extended song cycle:

Contextual & Analytical Commentary

Clement Jewitt

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Central England in Birmingham for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy


The Birmingham Conservatoire, University of Central England in Birmingham

Clement Jewitt has asserted his right under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this body of work.


© Clement Jewitt 2005



[Potential readers of this slightly adapted web version will rightly suspect that some necessary but boring-to-read academic requirements will be present. Be assured, though, that the author did his best to subvert that burden into something more attractive, and has here removed the more cumbersome pieces of academic apparatus. He feels that Chapters 1, 4 & 7 provide interesting discourse, with the other Chapters available for those who might wish to learn more about the specifics of this composer’s modus operandi.]

This dissertation discusses the author’s extended song cycle for female solo vocalist, small male voice choir and nineteen instrumentalists, consisting of fifteen sections. Poems are by Walt Whitman, Richard Eberhart, Charles Wright, bell hooks, Connie Bensley, the composer, Mark Strand and e.e. cummings. The order as just given gives rise to a meta-meaning suggestive of aspects of an imaginary life. Poem settings and instrumental sections are integrated with a dynamic model of flows in the psyche, developed by analytical psychologist Dr Gareth S. Hill, in which four basic patterns expressive of masculine and feminine attributes, both positive and negative, delineate, via fiery and watery initiations, pathways in the psyche descriptive of moment to moment changes, changes through a lifetime, aspects of relationships, and basic cultural patterns. Clement Jewitt was apparently the first to perceive applications to artistic functions, here, musical composition.

Among many others, Messiaen’s rhythmic and modal procedures, sparsity in the work of Scelsi, and Indian rāg forms especially influenced The Night Sea. The writing is generally modal, in which a complex mode has a series of nested subsets which are used systematically for different purposes, and in different sections. The nested subsets include Messiaen’s 1st and 4th modes of limited transposition, two rāgs, Dargandhar and Malkos, the latter being of five pitch classes, and a Hexatonic formed by the addition of one pitch class to the latter. These materials are manipulated by simple serial techniques, the results applied to homophonic and polyphonic procedures. Two sections are organized in a partly improvisational manner, and there are passages of independent part work elsewhere. Other than that the writing is traditionally time signatured, with tempo and other markings.

Some account is given of related works, and of the philosophical outlook of the writer, which is fundamentally aligned with the phenomenalists, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty and successors.


It is a truism that the influences on what we have become and what we do are not only genetic, but also resolve into the gestures , words and deeds of a mighty host of folk, rank upon rank stretching back into the obscurity of the earliest part of our lives. Parents, family, schoolteachers, friends, enemies, work colleagues, tutors, villains, spiritual leaders, lovers, all these and more I have encountered, whether in the long term or in passing. I have welcomed, received from, reacted to, recoiled from them—all have played a part in moulding my clay. So thanks to all of them for being who they were and are.

But I must focus on this PhD submission. I wish to express my grateful thanks to the many teachers from whom I learned much, however short or long was the time they gave to me, and however much I may have failed to express my appreciation and thanks at the time, first of all to my Supervisor Professor Andrew Downes, MA Cantab., FRSA, LFIBA, always ready with a penetrating comment as well as a word of encouragement, and to Edwin Roxburgh, BA Cantab., Mus. Bac. Durham, LRAM, FRCM, who took over at short notice after the unexpected retirement of Andrew Downes. Edwin’s wide experience of conducting as well as composing provided penetrating insights into my score at a late stage of its writing. Secondly I must thank Peter Johnson for his invaluable guiding work during the writing of this thesis, and thirdly, in chronological order, composers Raymond Head, John Mayer, Philip Martin, Robin Grant, Diana Burrell, Michael Finnissy, Jonathan Harvey, John Joubert, and conductors Colin Touchin and John Carewe for their varied input at different stages in my journey as a composer.

Finally, thanks to the unfailingly helpful staff of the Birmingham Conservatoire Library, and to all the instrumentalists and singers who have tackled my scores, students and professionals. I have learned something from all of them.

CJ, Sparkbrook, Oct. 2005

I am deeply concerned with the one-dimensionalization and trivialization of experience [engaged in] by our society, which endangers the capacity to experience individuality and complexity. I deeply believe that listening to music can restore this capacity.”

Jeremy Shapiro (1995: 259)





Chapter 1.  Introduction

Personal History                                  

Philosophical Viewpoint                    

Working Methods                               

Chapter 2.  Compositional Influences & Supporting Works

Compositional Influences

Supporting Works in the Folio

Other Pertinent Work

Chapter 3.  The Principal Work―Schema

Overall Form―Final Version, 2005



Chapter 4.  Eidos―Texts & Psychic Flows

Setting Texts to Music

The Psychological Model of Dr Gareth S. Hill

The Model Embedded in the Musical Work

The Musical Form of Night Sea

Chapter 5.  Taxis―Modes, Rhythms, Harmonies & Roles

Pitch Set Organization

Generalized Melodic Shapes

Pitch Set Rows

Linear Working  

Harmony & Texture

Rhythms & Tempi

Roles & Timbre

Chapter 6.  The Night Sea: Section by Section Description

Chapter 7.  Conclusions

Hearing Night Sea

Conductor & Soloist Points of View

The Composer’s Expectations & Limitations


Appendix A: Poem texts & Permissions

Appendix B: Other Composers and Compositions Referred to

Appendix C: Compositions During the PhD Study Period

Appendix D: CJ's Music - Comments, Appreciations & Reviews

Appendix E: Literary Work Duing the PhD Study Period