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cindy mctee

for alto saxophone and computer music on CD

2000, 2011
8 minutes

Adapted and arranged by Kathryn Swanson
on commission from alto saxophonist, Carrie Koffman.

Original version commissioned by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for its
100th Anniversary Season. Premièred on February 17, 2000
under the direction of Andrew Litton.
Support also provided by the University of North Texas.

score & audio examples

for sax

commercial recording


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program notes

Premièred on February 17, 2000 under the direction of Andrew Litton, the original version of Timepiece was commissioned by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for its 100th Anniversary Season. This version of Timepiece was adapted and arranged by Kathryn Swanson on commission from alto saxophonist, Carrie Koffman, who premièred and recorded the work in 2011.

I entitled the work, Timepiece, not only for its connection to the celebration of special events marking the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's one hundredth anniversary and the beginning of a new millennium, but also for the manner in which musical time shapes the work. The piece begins slowly, "before" time, in a womb-like, subjective, holding place. And then a clock-like pulse emerges, takes control, and provides the driving force behind a sustained, highly energized second section of about six minutes.

Much of my recent thinking about music is informed by the writings of Carl G. Jung who, in the words of Anthony Storr, "felt that the whole energy of mental functioning" sprang from the tension between the oppositions of conscious and unconscious, of thought and feeling, of mind and body, of objectivity and subjectivity. So too have the integration and reconciliation of opposing elements become important aspects of my work. The frequent use of circular patterns, or ostinatos, offers both the possibility of suspended time and the opportunity for continuous forward movement. Carefully controlled pitch systems and thematic manipulations provide a measure of objectivity and reason, while kinetic rhythmic structures inspire bodily motion. Discipline yields to improvisation, and perhaps most importantly, humor takes its place comfortably along side the grave and earnest.


. . . [Andrew] Litton brought along a souvenir from his Dallas years, a curtain-raiser that he commissioned from Cindy McTee called "Timepiece" . . . an engaging, pulsating, grooving mechanism . . .

Richard S. Ginell
The Los Angeles Times  


Cindy McTee's "Timepiece" got the concert off to an enjoyable start. The work was written in 2000 for Litton and the Dallas Symphony on the occasion of the orchestra's centennial. In her spoken remarks, she mentioned her upbringing in jazz and that's what came through strongly in "Timepiece." Which is not to say that it is jazz but that it has that air. The flittering lines cavort like scat and the language is dissonant but in the decorative and cool way of jazz — it bites and sizzles. The brass and percussion get used a lot; dance is never far away (the woodblock keeps returning with a ticktock beat to restore order). All in all, it's one of the more successful fusions of the jazz and symphonic styles that I've heard and it could have gone on longer than it's eight minutes as far as I was concerned.

Timothy Mangan
The Orange County Register


Timepiece is another flashy (in a good sense) McTee score . . . [with its] unique brand of rhythmic disjunction and wood/percussion harmonies that together build both fascinating structure and visceral excitement. She is never less than fascinating when she plays with seeming incongruities: the "possibility of suspended time and the opportunity for continuous forward movement." And the infusion of humor, another McTee trait, notably keeps Timepiece worth hearing again and again.

Mike Silverton
Fanfare Magazine 


[Timepiece] is bold, concise, elegantly crafted and intentionally clear. There is an intelligence and clarity of architectural design beneath the surface of this exciting, rhythmic landscape.

Citation from
The American Academy of Arts and Letters


Apart from a couple of patches of glimmering string chords, [Timepiece] chattered and bristled for all its eight minutes. With crosscuttings of time signatures, little rhythmic gestures were dovetailed and set scrambling one another. The piece was exhilarating and cleverly wrought . . . 

Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News


The third world premiere [Timepiece] presented by the Dallas Symphony in its 1999-2000 season was easily the most successful. [It] was succinct, eventful and intelligent in the hands of conductor Andrew Litton. In the program notes, McTee revealed the use of an octatonic scale and a 12-tone row in the piece; the listener is more aware of an appealing aura of ambivalent tonality and general avoidance of dissonance -- and of constantly engaging orchestral tone color. The effects are often gently humorous: percussion noises puncture cloudlike textures in the strings and quasi-minimalist repetition takes surprising turns. Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 is frequently thrown out as bait at orchestral concerts featuring new music, apparently on the theory that audiences will sit through a new piece to hear this old favorite. At last night's concert, however, not only was the new piece by McTee immediately approachable, but the performance of the Tchaikovsky was remarkably fresh and ear-opening.

Wayne Lee Gay
The Star-Telegram


As any Texas orchestra traveling abroad should, the Dallas Symphony has included a work by a major Texas composer. Cindy McTee . . . has mixed moments that recall Bernstein, Glass and Mahler, and she stirred in bits of humor and tossed in lively counterpoint in Timepiece, a succinct tribute to the turn of the millennium that will represent the best in contemporary American composition for the European audiences.

Wayne Lee Gay
The Star-Telegram


Cindy McTee's Timepiece, commissioned and premiered last season by the DSO, again impressed as an exuberant and finely crafted nine minutes' worth.

Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News


. . . an invigorating curtain raiser.

Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News


"Timepiece" is a fine program opener . . . built upon the ticking sound implied in its title. It contrasts blocks of breathing, gentle string chords with episodes of industrious busyness. The recurring ticking gives the music an air both mechanical and funky, like a soundtrack for a film about a factory in the Jazz Age.

Anne Midgette
The New York Times


[The first section] contrasts a wild variety of percussion set against a bed of muted strings providing strangely comforting dissonance. In the second sections, the work becomes decidedly more brassy and energetic. Relying on chord textures and rhythm more than melody, this piece is accessible and evocative, and the composer was well congratulated by the audience when she came out for a bow.

John Sutherland
The Seattle Times


. . . Timepiece is bright, energetic and richly flavored . . .

R.M. Campbell
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer


Timepiece by Texas-based Cindy McTee, proved a totally exhilarating exploration of momentum. Archly-patterned string figurations underpinned wind cantilenas in ticking textures perfectly proportioned to the piece's length. Under Andrew Litton, the Dallas players delivered it with exuberant delight.

Christopher Morley
Birmingham Post


To open the evening, Kahane brought Dallas composer Cindy McTee onstage to introduce her evocative Timepiece, in which the orchestra churned with a tick-tock intensity reminiscent of John Adams and Steve Reich - but with a recurring eight-tone scale and splash of color that gave this eight-minute piece a vibrant, fresh individuality.

Marc Shulgold
Rocky Mountain News