A PLACE TOWARD OTHER PLACES (2012)
COMMISSIONED BY: RICHARD HAWKINS
PREMIERE: 2012-11-05 (CLARKSVILLE, TN)
LATEST PERFORMANCE: 2017-02-03 (CAMBRIDGE, MA)
A place toward other places was commissioned by clarinetist Richard Hawkins and written during an extended period of weekly trips between the city of San Francisco and the parks land on the Northern peninsula of the San Francisco Bay. Parks like Point Reyes National Seashore and Muir Woods served as the site for gathering aural experiences — through audio recording and handwritten musical transcription — that corresponded with similar heard sounds of the city. These pairings of sonic twins were then combined and forged into sound materials for the clarinet. For instance, the dyad that begins the piece combines the memory of a fog horn heard from my studio at night with an unknown wild animal hidden somewhere in the forest of Muir Woods. The clarinet, then, serves as a nexus where the city and the untouched terrain of the parks meet. It as an abstraction of sonic characteristics common to both.
Beyond its connection to the Northern California coast, the “place” and “other places” of the title may equally refer to the work’s echos of modality (G Phrygian in the opening, Ab Mixolydian at the close), the chords and trills emanating from the complex interior of the clarinet, or the private sonic landscapes these sounds give rise to. Like tonal harmonies, each sound has a particular role – the pair of alternating chords of the piece’s initial moments, the high trills and harmonics, the low tremolos. Some have the energy or dynamic shape to initiate a phrase, while some provide closure. Some interrupt, some prolong, and some allow movement to other harmonic and gestural constellations. At the same time, these sounds connect to our everyday aural experience: a siren off in the distance, a bird call on the sea shore, an undulating machine, a religious ritual, the wind blowing through tall grass. Our recognition of one allows us to indulge in the discovery of another, yielding a delicate and fragile dance between the familiar and the uncharted.