The Atmos Clock


Performed by The Caixa Trio


Instrumentation: One 5.0 Octave Marimba

Program Notes:

The original Atmos Clock was the invention of the French engineer Jean-Leon Reutter in the 1920’s. The goal of this clock was to create a machine that generated its own power through the use of perpetual motion. By using Mercury (and later Ethyl Chloride) encased in a special glass tube, he was able to create a clock that could wind itself through the smallest changes in temperature or fluctuations in the atmosphere, hence the name “The Atmos Clock”. Today Atmos Clocks are manufactured by the Jaeger-LeCoultre company in Switzerland, and are considered to be one of the greatest feats in engineering.

This piece, like the Atmos Clocks themselves, runs on perpetual motion. Throughout the piece a running eighth-note gesture is performed. While the line itself may change and develop throughout the work, its energy remains constant, continually powering the piece until it fades to nothing. Combined with this are poly-rhythms that give the idea of separate gears turning at different speeds, yet all serving the same overall goal.

The Atmos Clock was commissioned by The Caixa Trio (Julie Davila, Julie Hill, and Amy Smith) in 2008, and was premiered by them in 2012. My sincere thanks to The Caixa Trio for their patience and support during the composition of the work.