…Network for New Music’s Third Space Festival, running from Friday through Monday, is out to show mainstream audiences that the music’s ethereal landscapes can be gorgeous.
A favorite instrument of Mozart and Martino, of Brahms and Babbitt, emblematic of early and swing jazz idioms, the clarinet brings rich associations to the concerto spotlight. I have had a little experience with the instrument myself, having played it in my college’s wind ensemble, and having been blessed with many splendid advocates for an early piece of mine for clarinet, piano and tape. One of those interpreters was Allen Blustine, and I felt honored to have his virtuosity again put at the service of my music in the premiere of this concerto with Speculum Musicae, the ensemble that commissioned the work.
In the slow prelude and postlude of the first movement the ensemble shadows the clarinet, providing resonances and echoes. Only in the central faster portion does the ensemble add more independent voices to the discourse.
A simple descending scale becomes the backdrop for a keening clarinet in the second movement. Eventually, the proliferating events turn lamentation into something more dramatic, and it takes a reflective solo cadenza before the ensemble can return to that scale, this time in both descending and ascending forms.
Contrasting layered pulses animate the moto perpetuo of the finale. At the movement’s center, the clarinet’s jazz heritage unexpectedly comes to the fore, though I suppose the polyrhythms hint at this all along.
In my earlier pieces combining electronic media with acoustic instruments (such as Dream Journal, written for and recorded by the Network Ensemble), the performers had to adhere to the timing of pre-recorded electronic sound on tape. By having the electronic component of my concerto performed by an instrumentalist playing a synthesizer, this problem of co-ordination was eliminated. However, my strategy for the use of electronic sound remained the same as in my earlier music. Throughout the work the synthesizer serves to extend and modify the sounds of the acoustic instruments, and enriches the work’s sonic palette with both percussive and sustained gestures.
And here is the video I did for Network, chatting a bit about the piece: