= Le Jardin Sec – Nigel Morgan

Le Jardin Sec

For String Quartet

from Le Jardin Sec, ‘walk’ II.


Le Jardin Sec is taken from a sequence of twelve short works for string quartet celebrating ‘The Garden’ and its relationship to the elements that give it life: sun, water and shade. The music in its duration, character and intent offers something a little different for string players and their audience. The writing for quartet contains very particular characteristics: gentleness, the ornamental, attention to group articulation, a lightness that comes from a velocity of bowing action, playing as ‘one body of sound’, the employment of a limited pitch compass. Above all, the music is conceived to provide plenty of interpretative space and opportunity. This extends to encouraging the player to explore octave transpositions and the use of timbral effects ( sul ponticello, sul tastiera, glissando, portamento and tremolando).


The music is imagined as four walks around a garden. The musical material is a collection of phrases, some long, some very short. During each ‘walk’ the musical material undergoes a metamorphosis passing from a unison orchestration of the phrase collection with ornamental embellishments to an exploration of octave displacement and the intervention of silences through discrete pauses; to a play of articulation (using an extended notation for staccato), effects of varying proximity, and finally moments of stillness and repose in sustained chords and harmonic textures.


Le Jardin Sec

Bees scorch

Round the red bosses

Of Rosa Moyseii,

Buzz like train sets.

Apples thunder

Like gorilla gangs

Crushing their way

To the jungle floor.

Butterfly pumps

Her faded wings,

No more stained glass

But worn tapestries.


White currants in cells

In pitiless sun

Sweat oval beads.

Poppies roll drums.

Cross brown grass

Under cube-cut trees,

An avenue of golden

Propped boxes,

And the vista races

Towards us, an actor

Late for his cue,

Cloaked in flames.

The score of Le Jardin Sec uses an extended notation for staccato devised to provide a clearer visual indication of articulation. This approach is also found in the composer’s work for organ Piece d’Orgue. Dynamics for each of the four movements are approached from a ‘mean’ value from which any following expressive terms, accents and signs are measured. Annotations of the Symbolic Composer code of the first movement of Le Jardin Sec are made available as an introduction to the technique of phrase generation and  collection that was first developed in this composition. This approach to devising the core material for a composition lies at the heart of the material found in the Six Concertos for orchestra (Instrumentarium Novum)



Study score [pdf]

Parts [zip]

Reference recording [mp3]

Annotated Code [pdf]