04 October 2014

A bit about the Op.113 № 1

The title of the piece is simply that of the Walt Whitman poem which serves for the text:  The Mystic Trumpeter.  But in musical fairness to Evelyn (and to Jaya, for whom I first composed the piece) I might have titled the piece Concerto № 1 for Solo Voice.

Why just two musicians?  If I had thought in terms of accompaniment for the voice, I might have written for a grander ensemble — Gustav Holst, for instance, accompanies the voice with a full orchestra, and Whitman's poem is symphonic, and sustains The Grand Gesture.  But in composing the music, I did not think of the clarinet as an accompanist;  but rather, I thought of the singer addressing the clarinet as the Trumpeter.

Why clarinet?  I know that the answer cannot simply be, Because that is what I play.  There is an arguably obscure terminological connection.  The name clarinet comes from clarino, which was the Italian word for trumpet from the Middle Ages down into the 18th c. (when the clarinet was invented/developed), reflecting the bright, penetrating character of the clarinet's tone in the middle (and upper) registers.  Even as Whitman's poem is addressed to an otherworldly musician, I felt that the appropriate instrument for this music, was a not-quite-trumpet.

Well, and why not a trumpet?  Because the clarinet is more capable than a trumpet of "vibrating capricious tunes."

No comments: