Cloud Gazing Composing at Home (Young Instrumentalists) >

In this activity you will use the changing shape and colour of clouds to compose your melody, inspired by Cirrus Light for solo clarinet by British composer Jonathan Harvey. 

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Cloud Gazing

British composer Jonathan Harvey was inspired to compose Cirrus Light by watching summer clouds in the sky from his wheelchair. He said:

'The cirrus clouds, which are so high, well formed and slow changing, were often illuminated by a beautiful light. The clarinet searches the sky for them.'  

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Have a listen:

The piece, composed for solo clarinet, is made up from just 5 distinct and contrasting musical ideas which are varied and transformed:

A muttering semi quaver figure in the low register:

'Other-worldly' high long notes with glissandi in between:

Bird like' chirps which leap around:

Repeated notes using alternative fingerings:

An 'almost toneless' figure, sometimes slow sometimes fast:

All excerpts are performed by BCMG clarinettist Jack McNeill

Your Turn!

Find a relaxing spot and do some cloud gazing of your own! Notice the shapes of the clouds and how they change colour and shape over time. 

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Take photos or film them, try sketching or painting them. Take multiple photos to show how they change over time. You could try to identify the clouds and give them their proper names. CLICK HERE for help with this.

Make a collection of your 3 or 4 favourite clouds. You might want to do this over a few days to make a contrasting selection. If you are stuck or there are no clouds(!) you could try using some from the GALLERY (see above).

How can you describe each cloud using your musical instrument? Create a musical idea for each cloud. Think about: 

  • The overall musical shape
  • How loud or quiet the sound will be
  • Is it a fast or slow idea?
  • What kind of sound on your instrument it could be - trills, airy, bowed, plucked, flutter tongue, harmonic...?

Now think about the different ways clouds change and transform over time.

cloud sequence

You could use the SEQUENCE page (see above) for inspiration. Clouds:

  • Gradually change from one shape to another
  • Change colour with the changing light
  • Move further apart or closer together
  • Grow in size
  • Break apart 
  • Merge with other clouds

How can you show the changes musically by transforming or developing your musical cloud ideas? Now organise your different clouds and their transformations into a final piece. 

Please send any music you create to



Photographs of Clouds


Cloud Sequence