At the Hour (2007)
for solo piano

Performed and recorded by Paul Child

In the autumn of 2007, I was hired to play classical music on an old keyboard as a mode of companionship for a cancer patient. The five afternoons I spent at his house were rainy and cast a murky gloom interrupted hourly by an outlandish phenomenon.

On the walls of this house were cuckoo clocks of all shapes, sizes and themes. Ten minutes before each hour, they would begin to sing, chime, chortle, buzz, shriek, and giggle, one at a time (most of them needed desperately to be wound), until a whimsical, dreadful, deafening cacophony would drown out words, music, and the sound of rain pattering on the roof. Then, one by one, the clocks would wind down; at ten minutes past the hour the final peep would be emitted, and forty more minutes of tick-tocking would ensue.

So intense was this experience that it inspired me to write this piece shortly thereafter. The solemnity of certain sections of this work comes from meditation on autumn, decay, time, and death. Otherwise, the material evokes the frantic clamor of thirty-some old, detuned cuckoo clocks, as well as the relentless ticking heard between hours.