I recently completed a commission from the Machine Project for the Little William Theatre Festival of New Music at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. This project, a really exciting collaboration between over one hundred composers, was a thrill to participate in. Each composer was asked to write four short pieces under two minutes in length for duos of clarinets, violins, tubas and accordions. The pieces will be performed by Violinists Andrew Tholl and Andrew McIntosh, Clarinetists James Sullivan and Brian Walsh, Tubists Doug Tornquist and Luke Storm, and Accordionists Daniel Corral and Isaac Schankler. All the concerts for the many works commissioned by the project will take place in the Little William Theatre, what was formerly a coat closet. Every performance will be for an audience of just two, and will provide an incredibly intimate experience for everyone involved in these “micro-concerts”.
I tried to create pieces for these duos that would set up a simple, yet very strict sound-world. The pieces don’t “go anywhere” as much as they “do something”, and they seem to stop doing it just as you get used to what it is that they are doing. I used a single, seven note melody that I arranged differently for the two parts of each duo, then created a constantly changing rhythmic framework, sometimes with subtle tempo changes that gently change the energy of the music. I worked with the same ideas throughout all four pieces, so it actually turned out to be a fun opportunity to explore the same material in different ways without having to throw any of it away!
Usually in writing a piece, the composer is faced with the reality of a constantly narrowing field of choices. Before he has started the piece, he can do anything, but as soon as he commits to the first note, his choices narrow more and more. This project was a welcome change of piece in that I could take that first step four different times and never once feel the unfortunately necessary dread of throwing away a perfectly good beginning to a piece as I usually do at least once in writing.
I’ve uploaded both parts for the clarinet and violin duos here. Feel free to download these pdf’s if you’re interested. Please don’t perform them publicly before the Little William Festival is over! If you’re interested in any of these pieces, please email me and I’d be happy to provide them to you.