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Tagsbass/baritone bass clarinet bassoon chamber music Chinary Ung clarinet clarinet music commission composer contrabass Dissolving Images double bass duo Dylan Thomas Edgar Varèse Ed Gilmore electro-acoustic music Fromm Foundation Hildring jazz John Garvey johs bøe Lament Lisa Moore Lounge Pianist monodrama music oboe orchestra percussion photography piano reed trio S.O.N.Y.C. Schoenberg serenade song Stony Brook University The Fisherman Thoreau Time treehouse viola W.B. Yeats William DeFotis
I have admired Michael Colgrass’s music since I was a junior in high school in 1976. I had discovered a recording in the local library of his orchestra work as quiet as and also heard it on the radio not long after. I also xeroxed the score to his woodwind quintet while at summer music camp at University of Illinois. Coincidently, when I performed Westside Story in high school I discovered Colgrass’s signature in the percussion book while nosing around.
I was involved in wind ensembles as early as 15 as a clarinetist. The last time I performed in a wind ensemble was about ten years ago performing Stravinsky’s Symphony for Winds. When I was a young composer of 18 in 1978 I composed a 12 minute piece titled Rainbow for a wind ensemble with a large percussion section at Northern Illinois University. It was a challenging piece but the performer’s hard work brought about a good performance and an even better recording that opened many doors for me. However, I didn’t find an interest by other wind ensembles back then. Perhaps the situation has changed. I’ll explore.
Here’s a brief clip of a more transparent section of Rainbow from 1978 when I was 18:
Air is a work for fixed media and optional live improvisation by a solo instrumentalist with a duration of 60 minutes. The piece is for a 60-minute yoga practice. Here is the score. It basically shows the timings and durations of events, meter, pitches and cues. It is a map for both the soloist and yogi.
(Click on image for a larger size.)
A playing of Air without a soloist is absolutely acceptable.
This track is the original version for string orchestra performed by SONYC (String Orchestra of New York City).
This is the complete recording of the clarinet and piano version:
First off, the clarinet version uses a faster tempo, otherwise, by the time the clarinet finished a phrase the soft piano chords would have faded away as we discovered in rehearsal. The faster tempo also helps with endurance. Even at this tempo, endurance became an issue around the 6:20 mark. Another sonic difference due to replacing a body of strings with a piano is the piano makes the work rhythmic. In the original, the only rhythmic element is the double bass’ two-note figure that is always present but in the distance. By combining the sustained chords with the two-note figure, the piano part becomes more rhythmic than harmonic, and I feel Jeff Abell’s comment on Facebook about the new version being “…a bit like Messiaen’s “Louange à l’immortalité de Jésus,” without the Catholicism.” addresses the resulting new texture. It isn’t, therefore, the numerous melodic tri-tones that reminds one of the Messiaen piece but the now very present two-note motive. What I miss in the clarinet version that peaks through the hazy sustained chords of the original is the references to bluesy chords (there are also melodic lines that reference blue notes) and Ivesian type string chords. But as I mentioned in my previous post, the trade off is intimacy for resonance.
Back in February I premiered a new version (clarinet and piano) of an older work from 2001 I composed titled Hymn to the Vanished (string orchestra) at Adelphi University where I am the clarinet instructor. I only recently received the recording of the concert in the mail. The original work was my response to the September 11th tragedies and was composed a few weeks afterwards. Soon after, the work received performances by both the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra and S.O.N.Y.C. (String Orchestra of New York City) at Brooklyn College and Weill Recital Hall respectively.
Obviously I needed to make changes to the piece. Texturally the work is simple, the first violins played the melodic line now played by the clarinet sans some stratospheric notes, the double basses play a two-note figure throughout and the rest of the strings continuously sustain chords. The piano part consists of combining the chords and the two-note double bass figure with a minimal amount of adjustments to the original. The new version lacks the resonance of the original but gains an intimacy a string orchestra cannot capture.
This is a clip of the new version, myself on clarinet and Jad Bernardo, piano:
All sorts of asses ‘love’ poetry. Why not? It confirms them in the assininity of their deepest beliefs. It underlies the racial laziness, the unwillingness to think, the satisfaction of feeling oneself part of the race and of having all posterity behind one in proneness and stupidity. This is what is inherent in most ‘love’ of poetry.
A smooth, lying meter that nostalgically carries them back to sleep is what they want. That’s why for a living, changing people only the new poetry is truly safe, truly worth reading. And that is why it is opposed by the best people—the intellectually deepest bogged—as if it were the devil himself.
—William Carlos Williams, “Note: The American Language and the New Poetry, so called” (1931?)
Replace “poetry” with “music” and 1931 with 2014.
The situation in music is now even worse, Mr. Williams. American Music that is truly worth listening to has been gradually silenced but it is out there. This unheard music is neither academic nor audience-needy but it is off the radar—literally outside of the box. What is being paraded around as American music in all types of music spaces around the country and recordings, by all forms of ensembles is an audience-needy music described as hip, cool and other such words usually saved for the marketing of populist musics (products) that cradles a supposedly intelligent audience back to sleep; exactly what a somnambulant audience has been clamoring for over many decades (with easily accommodating ensembles and organizations including universities and schools of music) that demands music not to be taken seriously, with a plethora of composers waiting in the wings to fulfill this nightmare.
If you have a yoga practice and you are a musician, a music lover or have a sensitivity to sound and music, you may find the somewhat random collections of mismatched music and sounds during a class to be irksome. Perhaps, too, you have experienced instructors who structure (intentionally or unintentionally) the energy of a class in such a way as to resemble an asymmetrical arch or reminiscent of a musical form whose peak occurs at about 70% through.
With these observations in mind, I decided to compose a one hour piece of music for a yoga class for two live soloists (clarinet and violin) improvising at various points during a digital track of processed acoustic and digital sounds. It is titled Air and is utilitarian music.
During the summer I will announce outdoor yoga events that will use this piece with live soloists. Listen to a 5:40 clip of clarinet improvisation and digital sounds that occur at the 8:40 mark of the piece.
Listen to the seventh and last movement, Finale of Schoenberg’s “Serenade.”
Listen to the sixth movement, Lied, from Arnold Schoenberg’s “Serenade”, performed by University of Illinois faculty and students, 1981.
Fifth installment, Tanzscene, from Schoenberg’s “Serenade” performed by students and faculty of the University of Illinois, Bill DeFotis, conductor:
I am sure many have noticed this before but I noticed it while I was making the mp3. When I heard the final three chords I distinctly heard the ghost of Petrushka:
The first chord at measure 199 is a “Petrushka” chord (Db +11) voiced in a cluster, followed by a mutated “Petrushka” chord, that is, rather than two major chords a tritone apart (Db major and G major) it is two minor chords a tritone apart (Eb minor and A minor). The final chord is the first chord but voiced differently. For theory geeks, the two chords are complimentary hexachords.