Tuesday, August 09, 2011

New Release: On the inevitability of loss

Listen and download via bandcamp.

This is a set of four dark and somber pieces for bass clarinet and cello. (There should be a lot more music written for bass clarinet and cello. Bass clarinetists and cellists should be forming duos all over the place. They could name their group, "Dark and Creepy." In a perfect world, that would happen.)

It's not really designed for live performance, but was conceived for realization in the studio. To play it live would require 3 bass clarinetists, at least 5 cellists, and guitar. Most of those people would sit around not playing for most of the time. So, maybe better to think of it as duo pieces, with a few overdubs allowed.

I had the idea in the back of my mind for a long time to write duos for those two instruments. They sound so great together. Also, in certain registers, they sound almost identical. I don't think you can find a more homogeneous pairing of wind and string instruments?

The first and last pieces of the set are actually the same. First time, done by bass clarinet (with two overdubs), then the work closes with the same material performed by the cello. Track two is a straight-up acoustic duet (without overdubs). Track three is the emotional core of the work, and has the densest sound palette. On that one, I was aiming for something Godspeed You! Black Emporer-esque, but missed and wound up someplace else.

Compositionally, all of the music is kept very simple. Partly because of my own simple-mindedness, but partly as a means of maintaining a sense of austerity to balance the dark emotional tone.

I ripped off an excerpt of a very old chant melody from the Russian orthodox church, probably inaccurately. There's also a Russian lullaby tune that appears (most clearly in track 2). It also has a dark quality, but at the same time has a sort of naive innocence to it. Most of the other original material is made using the octatonic scale (or what jazz players call the diminished or half-diminished scale). Stravinsky seemed to like it, and he proved again and again that it pairs nicely with Russian folk tunes, so it seemed like a safe bet. And it was.

Most importantly, the score includes a great deal of improvisation. The best parts of what you hear were not invented by me, but by the super talented and lovely people that played the piece. They totally killed it. It's a little bit disingenuous to slap my name on there like I "own" it. But I did.

The credits:

Composed by Jonathan Matis.
Performed by:
Ben Redwine: bass clarinet
Natalie Spehar: cello
Gordon Withers: cello section on track 3, first solo on track 4
Jonathan Matis: ambient guitar on track 3
Mixed by T.J. Lipple
Produced by Jonathan Matis and T.J. Lipple
Recorded in Jon's basement

If you're curious, the score is available here.

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