Clockwork: Three Minutes to Midnight

Clockwork: Three Minutes to Midnight

Please watch the video on youtube by clicking here if the video appears to be skipping frames or posing any other playback problems.

(dynamics range from pppp to f, kindly use earphones to listen to the piece if it is too soft)

Composer/Conductor: Chia, Amos
Percussion: Becky Brass
Violin I: Jaya Hanley
Violin II: Josie Calver
Contrabass I: Stephen Street
Contrabass II: Sarah James
Piano (4 hands): Will Handysides & Sally Halsey

In March 2012, Amos composed the minimalistic Clockwork: Three Minutes to Midnight after spending a week visiting different clock towers and researching on clockwork. The composition explores the concept of spatial music and sound localization while using a myriad of instrumental timbres, and exploiting the psychology of the audience.

Clockwork: Three Minutes to Midnight is a short work for a small ensemble. The music paints the soundscape of a cold and quiet room located high in an old clock tower with an orchestra of gears and pendulums working together in tandem, slowly ticking towards midnight before a haunting melody is played by the bells as the clock strikes twelve. The performance begins with the audience blindfolded or with their eyes closed, slowly having their sense of hearing adapted to the quiet ambience in the recital studio. The cold environment in the studio further contributes to the psychology of the audience, as though the audience is really trapped in a pitch-dark and quiet room in a clock tower. The denial of the audience’s sense of sight allows them to have a greater aural perception of the sounds and timbres around them, and they would not be able to see the performers around the room.

Clockwork: Three Minutes to Midnight opens with the vibraphone mimicking the escape wheel, ticking once every second. The two violins at the corners of the room mimic the successive gear axels down the ‘time train’ after the escape wheel, moving in a circular motion and in opposite directions. The contrabasses at the other two corners of the room imitate the heavy swinging motion of the pendulum, and its resonance is heard as it makes each oscillation while the subtle sounds produced by the piano imitates the movements of the smaller gears in the clockwork. The contrabass also mimics a clockwork movement after every minute as the axel shifts the minute hand to its next position. As the clockwork reaches midnight, the gears behind the chime mechanism releases the tension which was built up and moves to engage with the running time train, and the haunting melody of the chimes is heard by the tubular bells before the clock begins its twelve strikes of midnight.

The premiere of Clockwork: Three Minutes to Midnight was performed by the ‘Clockwork’ Ensemble in the Peacock Room, King Charles Court on April 27 and was well received by the audience and prominent composers such as Dominic Murcott and Paul Newland.

Study for Flute and Soundtrack

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Composed by Amos Chia

Performed by Holly Cook at King Charles Court

Pointillism, single-line counterpoint, klangfarbenmelodie, virtuosic passages, extended techniques, and performing with an accompanying soundtrack. These elements can be found in the Study for Flute and Soundtrack. Performed and recorded live by the Richard Caine Junior Fellow of the Trinity College of Music and award winning flautist, Holly Cook.

View Holly’s website at

String Quartet No. 6 “Circle” – Con Dolore

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Composed by Amos Chia

Performed by the Benyounes Quartet

An avant-garde composition written for string quartet, built entirely on circle of fifths. The feeling of rubato is created with dynamics, as the entire piece follows a strict tempo. A sense of lament is created, as the tri-tones heard at the beginning develops into circle of fifths, with two circles moving contrapuntally between the strings towards the end of the piece.

Journey Through Space

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Composed by Amos Chia

Journey Through Space is a short digital composition which utilizes synthesized sounds. I was experimenting with sine and square waves and white noise, and also recently watched a show talking about journey through different planetary systems in the future. Hence I decided to create this composition which would take one on a journey through space.

P.S. Please listen to this on some good quality head/earphones for a full aural experience.

Grosse Fugue (from Brass Quintet No. 1)

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Composed by Amos Chia

Performed by Chris Atchley, Jacob Phillips, Ross Lumbard, Jon Frank and Thomas Kelly.

Grosse Fugue is the second movement of my Brass Quintet No. 1, and it is based on the techniques of serialism, utilizing different tone rows for the different fugal entries.

La Sarabande

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Composed and performed by Amos Chia

A sarabande written in the style of Bach and also incorporating some modern elements from composers such as Debussy and Ravel. Recorded with an iPhone on an old upright piano found on the higher floors of Trinity College of Music, and cut and edited to remove other violin, oboe, flute playing that can be heard in the background (hence the rather short ending on this low-quality recording).

Would you dance with me?

The Sleep; Theta, Spindles, Dreamscapes (3 Movements for Solo Percussion)

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Composed by Amos Chia

Performed by Oliver Taylor

The Sleep is a suite of 3 movements for solo percussion; temple blocks, tom toms, tam tam and the vibraphone. The 3 movements, Theta, Spindles and Dreamscapes, are based on the different stages of sleep which most of us experience everyday. Do listen out for the ‘vibrato’ effect (the rotor was broken and the vibrato is very subtle) and other subtle sounds produced by the vibraphone.

Recorded at King Charles Court, Trinity College of Music

p.n-alk (different interpretation)

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p.n-alk is an electroacoustic piece with a graphic score, and this recording is a different interpretation of the same score shown in the previous post. In this interpretation, the three sections are clearly defined, and a myriad of sound qualities exist in the different sections to produce different soundscapes for the audience. However, please listen to this version with ear/headphones of good quality for a full aural experience. Do no listen to this without headphones.


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Music by Amos Chia

p.n-alk, or pentalk, is an electroacoustic piece written for the pen and paper. The sounds of the pen clicks and writing on a thin sheet of paper on a wooden desk are recorded and manipulated on the computer to produce this short piece of music. Listen (with ear/headphones for a full aural experience) once with your eyes closed and try to imagine the soundscape that is created. Then listen again while referring back to the score (shown below). All scores are handwritten and everything in the score is drawn and created to scale eg. spaces, shapes, etc.

Finally, can you find the hidden message in this short piece?

(click to view image in full size)

Demain, dès l’aube

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Text by Victor Hugo
Music by Amos Chia

Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

Tomorrow, beginning at dawn, at the time when the countryside pales,
I will leave. You see, I know that you are waiting for me.
I will go through the forest, I will go through the mountain.
I cannot remain far from you any longer.

Recorded 13/10/11, Bantock Room, Trinity College of Music, King Charles Court

Soprano: Julia Weatherley
Piano: Amos Chia