Contents May Differ
Pat O’Keefe, clarinet and bass clarinet
with Scott Miller, electronics
and Paul Cantrell, piano
1. Jeff Lambert – Dissonant Grooves 5:27
2. Ann Millikan – Dendrite 13:19
3. Scott Miller – Contents May Differ 11:14
4. Brett Wartchow – Unbound 13:22
5. Pat O’Keefe – Silent Snow 10:27
Paul Cantrell – The Broken Mirror of Memory
6. I – Entanglement 1:59
7. II – Soliloquy 4:19
8. III – Tango 6:24
9. IV – Flight 6:26
For many musicians active in new music and working extensively with living composers, the question of legacy is an important one: What have I done to help usher new works into the repertoire of my instrument? This notion of “legacy” has a long history, as the major works for most instruments usually come about as a result of a strong relationship between a composer and a specific player. This CD presents a variety of new works written for me by composers who are not only wonderful collaborators but also very close friends, and represents the beginning of an ongoing project to commission and record new music for the clarinet and bass clarinet.
Pat O’Keefe is a multi-faceted performer, creator, and educator active in a wide variety of musical genres. He has appeared as a soloist with symphony orchestras and wind ensembles, he has played for belly dancers, and he has played samba in the streets. This multiplicity of experiences is what defines him as a musician. Pat is currently the co-artistic director and woodwind player for ensemble Zeitgeist, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, with which he has premiered over 200 new works. He is also active with the improvisation ensembles Fifth Column and Cherry Spoon Collective, and the world music groups Choro Borealis, Batucada do Norte, and Music Mundial. He currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls.
Dissonant Grooves for Bb Clarinet is the first in a series of works for an unaccompanied soloist in which the guiding principle is that the pitches chosen may be dissonant, but that the rhythm should be accessible to the average listener. In other words, even if the notes are strange, one should be able to clearly discern the beat. In keeping with my preferred method of composition, it was written in collaboration with clarinetist Kate Berning-Alfred. Later revisions were also made while working with clarinetist Pat O’Keefe, who performed the piece at the International Clarinet Association’s annual convention (2012). As a performer myself, I value idiomatic writing, and strive to make my pieces fit on the instrument well. Their input was invaluable to this end.
I am deeply honored to have received a commission from clarinetist Pat O’Keefe – a player whose technical mastery and generosity of spirit are equal – and to be a part of this fantastic project. Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with Pat in many different musical situations. With Dendrite I composed a piece that leans toward the subtler sounds he is capable of on the bass clarinet, along with a good dose of the punchiness.
Dendrite, derived from the Greek word dendron, meaning “tree,” refers to the branching phenomenon that occurs in the formation of ice crystals as they fall through the air and the electrochemical processes of neurons.
Water molecules have a hexagonal structure, as do snow crystals, which form when water vapor condenses directly into ice. A speck of dust is the singular form that ice crystals and air pockets form around to create snow.
Self-similar fractal patterns are a natural attribute of ice crystal growth. They develop as branching protrudes from each corner of the hexagonal prism, creating complex treelike patterns. In contrast to rapid-fire transmissions via branched projections of neurons, they grow very slowly. These are the ideas I explored in the composition.
Contents May Differ
The title Contents May Differ refers to the sometimes unexpected world of sound contained in an instrument, once you – so to speak – open the box. In this case, I am opening the box of sound with the aid of electronic amplification. The use of multiple microphones allows for intense magnification and dissection of the bass clarinet’s palette of sound, revealing beautiful spectra that often go unheard if you are more than a few inches from the instrument, let alone in the audience.
Unbound for Bb Clarinet is conceptually inspired by the dramatic presentation of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem, “Prometheus Unbound.” While not an attempt to reflect the poem’s narrative or embody its mythic characters, the arrangement of the composition’s thematic materials imitate Shelley’s script-style closet drama. Just as readers of the poem are prompted to conjure an imaginary theater within which they internally voice each character in dialogue, Unbound juxtaposes varied expressive characteristics within the singular and intensely dynamic voice of the solo clarinet. Within this structure, a process of unbinding informs the music’s development. Like a shell breaking open, motives introduced in the monolithic exposition distend, augment, and give way to new textures, lyric contours, and relations. The piece thus emerges as a sonic reflection on the notion of gesture itself, a gradual shift from one state of stasis to another.
Silent Snow is based on two contrasting musical ideas: a darkly beautiful chorale, and an unrelenting, obsessively rhythmic Bolero-like crescendo. I think Ravel’s infamous work is quite ingenious, and I’ve heard many pieces in a variety of genres that mimic its basic structure of repetition and build-up to great effect. The obsessive low-high piano part that anchors the long crescendo is based on rhythmic fragments from two of my favorite international grooves: Maracatu from Brazil and Ağir Roman from Turkey. The title came about as I was composing the piece in February 2013. Late one night as I took a break from working on the opening measures I stood at my front door and watched as an incredibly delicate crystalline snow was falling. There was not a breath of wind, and it was absolutely still and quiet. The phrase “silent snow” popped into my head at that moment, and it never left.
The Broken Mirror of Memory
Entanglement, soliloquy, tango, flight: each movement poses a problem from which the next unfolds. Themes continually resurface, transformed, as the music reinvents its own past – the endless process Gabriel García Márquez described as “piecing together the broken mirror of memory from so many scattered shards.” The coda gathers everything together, grappling, burning down – and then, from the embers, a simple benediction emerges, present all along, now laid bare. We discover in retrospect that the music’s destination has always been its source.
The Broken Mirror of Memory was chosen as the winner of the International Clarinet Association’s Composition Competition in 2012.
I must recognize the many wonderful people who helped me realize this project: composers Ann, Brett, Jeff, Paul, and Scott for the incredible music you gave me; Scott (again) for his great ears, and hours and hours of producing / editing / mixing skills; Matthew Zimmerman and Steve Kaul at Wild Sound Studio for creating such a wonderful recording environment; Greg Reierson for his mastering expertise; Philip Blackburn at Innova for being so supportive of this project (and for his patience); Mary Ellen Childs for her invaluable help with the grant writing that funded this project; Doug Kuehn at Schmitt Music Brooklyn Center for keeping my horns in such awesome shape; Theodore Schoen, Justin Rubin, and Jeff Campbell at UMD for showing me such a great time when I came to perform this music in Duluth; the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council for their financial support of this project (and for all that they do for Artists in Minnesota); and finally my wife Merribeth for her unending love and support…not to mention the delicious treats she made for the premiere performance! To all of you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!!
Recorded at Wild Sound Studios, Minneapolis, in June 2007 (Lambert), April 2013 (Millikan, Miller, Wartchow, O’Keefe), and December 2013 (Cantrell), with Matthew Zimmerman and Steve Kaul, recording engineers. Edited and mixed by Scott Miller. Mastered by Greg Reierson, Rare Form Mastering. Produced by Scott Miller and Pat O’Keefe.
Pat O’Keefe is a fiscal year 2012 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is funded, in part, by the Minnesota State Legislature from the State’s arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.
This activity is also made possible, in part, by funds provided by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) through a grant from The McKnight Foundation.
innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.
Philip Blackburn, director, design
Chris Campbell, manager
Steve McPherson, publicist