John Gordon Armstrong

Canadian Composer



Notes from the composer

Abstracts, written for and dedicated to Robert Riseling, was given its premiere by the Wellington Trio in October of 1988. The original concept was to create a purely instrumental work which embodied the ideas first presented in my Wind ~ Earth ~ Sea for soprano, violin, and harp; movements of several minutes duration would alternate with miniatures; all instrumental combinations within the ensemble would be used; the essential harmonic language would be grafted from one piece to the other. In the most general sense, these strictures were applied, but Abstracts developed into an ambitious work of 26 minutes’ duration, comprising ten full movements and one interlude. Each movement, in a different way, develops the central idea of the piece, a harmonic progression—a microcosm of the piece’s overall harmonic structure—heard in its simplest form at the end of the first movement. As Abstracts develops, its language and style changes; the brutal, astringency of the beginning gradually fades and is replaced by the more lyrical, romantic gestures of the final movement.

Abstracts was premiered on October 28, 1988 in the Recital Hall at the University of Western Ontario by the Wellington Trio. The brilliant performance below is by Emilia Segura, clarinet, Trevor Wilson, violin and Patrick Armstrong, piano, from the Nov. 5, 2017 concert “Music of John Armstrong” in Salle Huguette Labelle at the University of Ottawa. I had to break it into two parts for the website, but this is a piece that really should be listened to in it’s entirety.

Composed in 1988 for violin, clarinet, piano
Ten Movements
Duration: 26 minutes
Eclectic!/Very difficult

Abstracts, movements 1-6


Abstracts, movements 7-10