Pots ‘n Pans Falling   for six amplified musicians and recorded child violinist


Pots ‘n Pans Falling is scored for amplified flute, clarinet in B-flat, piano, vibraphone (including 4 gongs), violin and cello, and recorded child violinist.

A young survivor of the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School described the gunshots as sounding like “pots and pans falling to the floor”.  This innocent and disarming description of an incomprehensible act of violence is especially poignant, being a father of a young child.  I imagined the victims in that moment of horror, and the irreparable damage left on the survivors.  This tragedy weighed on my mind, and it was this emotional impulse that I wanted to translate into music.


After attempting numerous approaches and perspectives, the drafts were either self-indulgent of my own grief for the victims, or they became my portal of anger.  Upon much introspection, I returned to the basic root of the event.  Thus, it felt right to choose the perspective of a seven-year old child, as I wanted the work to celebrate their lives with an uplifting sound.


Having worked with children as a music teacher, I became familiar with certain musical elements that, without fail, always made them laugh, and I hoped to incorporate some of that innocence into the piece.  There are repeated, simple calling motives and a driving pulse, derived from a world experienced through the ears of a child.  The six members of the ensemble play a simple calling motive of g–e, expanded to g-e-a-g-e, which, in fact, consists of the four open violin strings, a basic foundation for children beginning to play music.  The work consists of this simple motive replayed in different rhythmic repetitions and durations. It is set in unison, but at all times the instruments play slightly out-of sync, producing a delay-effect.


I chose to include a recording of the motive hummed and played by a young violinist. My seven years old violin student John Lang has kindly assisted in working with me on these recordings. To assure a perfect blend of the recordings with the live players, the six adult musicians are amplified.  The motive was inspired by our broken mantle clock, which coincidentally chimed, g-e, prompting the work’s opening with the two gongs imitating the clock.  Towards the end of the piece this ‘clock’ chimes 26 times for the victims.


Pots ‘n Pans Falling is commissioned by Acoustic Panel, which inspires individuals and groups in the Vancouver community to contribute to the creation and premiere of a new composition for the Standing Wave Ensemble. The mastermind and visionary behind Acoustic Panel was the late Tom Cone (1947-2012), playwright, philanthropist, and personal friend.  It is in this spirit that I have decided to contribute part of the funding for this commission to the Sandy Hook School Memorial Scholarship Fund by the University of Connecticut.

Edward Top, 2013

World premiere performance of Pots ‘n Pans Falling by Ensemble Standing Wave, in Vancouver on 21 April 2013.