Boston based bass clarinet and marimba duo Transient Canvas (Amy Advocat and Matt Sharrock) release their third album with New Focus, continuing to document their tireless commissioning project for their instrumentation. The music on this collection revels in contrasts — between rhythmic dynamism and free meter, bombastic extroversion and delicate inward moments, conventional and extended technique.
Opening the recording is Barbara White’s Fool Me Once, a work divided into two sections, first rhythmic and coordinated and second atmospheric and textural. A syncopated figure is heard in unison to begin the piece, before it is gradually deconstructed, fragmenting its components into both parts. After moving through a slower tempo, the texture lands in a free, vigorous climax marked by raw multiphonics and squeals in the clarinet and virtuosic scalar passages in marimba. Short outbursts of this material become more spaced out, as the work slowly turns toward music that hints at White’s interest in meditative solo Japanese bamboo flute repertoire. The piece closes with a quiet, breathy clarinet multiphonic, hearkening back to the energetic opening heard now filtered through a reflective hue.
Jonathan Bailey Holland's work Rebounds is a contemporary answer to the short character pieces popular in the romantic piano repertoire. He establishes insistent repeated notes as a key motive from the beginning, sounding them in both instruments in alternation, in deceleration, and different tempi. This idea grows into a pulsating section where marimba chords bloom, eventually supporting a lyrical clarinet melody. Bailey Holland compresses the range of material back to the repeated note motive to close the piece with a gentle hocketed figure between the two instruments.
Singlish (a blend of Singaporean slang and English) is the jumping off point for Emily Koh’s \very/ specifically vague. Koh’s writing for the bass clarinet and marimba is meant to evoke the stylized, “roundabout” manner of speaking characteristic of a shorthand one might find on internet chat rooms. The clarinet writing in the opening solo passage is ornamental, relying heavily on trills, elisions of quick grace note figures, and elastic gestures. The marimba often mimics these figures, adding accented exclamations to support the clarinet. Ultimately, the vernacular “conversation” the two instruments are having dissolves, leaving the clarinet alone again to close the piece much as it began.
In his Cold column, calving, Clifton Ingram merges two narratives in abstract musical terms. The first is the Jakobshavn Glacier calving in 2008, a dramatic rupture of a massive wall of ice from the Greenland ice sheet. The opening section, glacier’s edge (hemisphere I), depicts this slow process of breaking away; sounds that evoke the dripping of water from melting ice, creaking and popping sounds, and the performers’ pages falling to the ground symbolize the range of small sounds that together add up to a cataclysmic result. The second section also introduces Ingram’s second narrative, an exploration of the bicameral mind. The corpus callosum in the brain is the mediator between the two hemispheres of the brain; in Ingram’s depiction, haunting swells track the ethereal firing of synapses and exchange of information. The final section is a shrouded, plaintive setting of a medieval lament, “Go! heart, hurt with adversity!”
In resonance imaging, Crystal Pascucci shapes a musical portrait of experiences she has had in MRI machines while undergoing tests. The mechanistic glissando figure we hear in the marimba to open the piece conjures the processing of the testing machine; pops and bleeps in both instruments evoke the calibrations of a computer. Contrasting these sounds of the testing room are inner expressions of claustrophobia and the ongoing struggle with illness, at times somber and others desperate and charged.
Stefanie Lubkowski’s title track is “an exploration of the tension between the moment-to-moment sensuality of sound and the forward drive of rhythm, melody, and harmony.” Bowed marimba and a searching bass clarinet melody open the piece, with subtle staccato punctuations in the clarinet and a cameo from a snare drum. The percolating texture grows into a climactic section featuring fierce multiphonics in the clarinet and accented bursts on the drum. After this explosion of energy, the work returns to the calm consideration of sustained sounds and timbres for its close.
Keith Kirchoff writes that his Monochrome is “relentlessly dedicated to a single idea.” Accented chords in the marimba trigger short clarinet motives, at first one and two note gestures, gradually expanding to longer collections as the register of goal notes expands upwards. Throughout Kirchoff adjusts the catalyzing relationship; a transitional section builds a sotto voce texture around the prevailing pulse implied by a quasi-bass line played by the clarinet. The work’s greatest contrast comes midway through, when delicate marimba rolls underscore a deliberative clarinet melody.
Transient Canvas’ commissioning work consistently elevates the craft and expression of excellent composers in the United States today, regardless of their promotional profile. As performers, they enliven the local details of each score with color and delicacy while placing them in the context of an elegantly shaped larger structure. Right now, in a second is an excellent addition to the evolving discography chronicling their mission.
released October 16, 2020
Produced by: Stefanie Lubkowski, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Clifton Ingram, Peter Van Zandt Lane, Keith Kirchoff, Amy Advocat, and Matt Sharrock
Engineer & Mastering: Joel Gordon
Tracks 1-6 recorded December 20-22, 2019 at Blue Jay Studios in Carlisle, MA
Track 7 recorded on April 9, 2016 at Dancz Center for New Music in Athens, GA
New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as
new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers....more