I like to have the title of a piece in hand before I start to compose. A friend light-heartedly suggested “Free and Easy Wanderer.” This term is a loose translation of a Chinese herbal supplement I was taking at the time. I thought, “Why not?” and in fact began composing in the spirit of those words. Free and Easy Wanderer
is a short piece based on the simplest of ideas: an opening chord in the piano and bells that provides that intervallic and harmonic stuff of the piece, and a motif in the clarinet which generates rhythmic impetus. Phrases and sections of the music arise and dissolve with transformations of the chord and motif. “Free” and “easy” suggested to me the qualities of water: water will flow in the most casual, sparkling way in a brook, or it can swiftly rage forward in rapids, quickly coming to rest again in the next section of river. Water “wanders” as a river winds through the countryside, yet it carves its way through the landscape in a definitive pattern. I dedicated this new piece for the London Sinfonietta to my friend of many years, Oliver Knussen.