I screamed at the sea until nodes swelled up, then my voice became the resonant noise of the sea
for solo amplified Bb clarinet(2006)
|Commission||Commissioned by Gregory Oakes|
|Premiere||August 11, 2006; ClarinetFest 2006, Atlanta, GA; Gregory Oakes, clarinet|
|Technical requirements||It is required the this piece be amplified with two microphones, one closer to the bell of the instrument, the other closer to the mouthpiece (this one to get the singing).|
This piece was written for the virtuoso clarinetist, Greg Oakes, who has been one of my oldest and most trusted collaborators. His playing and commitment to extending the technical and expressive range of his instrument has inspired not only the composition of this piece, but has helped influence my approach to composing for specific people and specific instruments. Instruments aren’t instruments. They are people.
In composing this piece, I started with my own empirical experiments on a plastic Buffet Crampon instrument (which included overtone singing into the instrument, difference tones, humming effects, multiphonics, and an arsenal of microtonal inflections around middle G). I then considered the encyclopedic set of multiphonics that Greg Oakes had sent to me. Testing the sounds out physically on the instrument helped me factor the phenomenological weight of each sound.
Around the time I was about to finish this piece, someone told me that in the Korean folk-tradition of Pansori-style singing, in order to acquire the appropriate voice for the music, the singers go scream at the sea until they develop permanent nodes in their throats. What seems horrific and possibly career threatening in a Western context, alas, becomes the manner in which the body is transformed and trained in another cultural context. This consideration of a singular act under multiple aspects points directly to the empathic space that I think art must serve to help curate. Learning that a poison can also be a cure suspends and challenges our normative cultural expectations. The contingent commitment and sound that such acts can deliver are also potent with potential for transcendence and, for me, beauty.
- Ken Ueno