Daniel Goode - Clarinet Songs

Clarinet Songs is an evening-length suite for solo clarinet which I began in 1979, and reached its current form in 1991. It is a culmination of all my creative work with clarinet starting from the twenty minute solo, Circular Thoughts. The suite is made up of a series of individual pieces, "songs without words" if you will, which are of durations anywhere from about a minute to about ten minutes. Each is a sound world of its own, based on some unique material, perhaps a specific technical, poetic or sonic idea, and some synthesis of these. Most use circular breathing for continuity, and no electronic devices are used to process the sound. In perfor­mance I did use, occasionally, one kind of presentation in which the performance—at Real Art Ways, for example—was acoustic in one room while piped to speakers in an adjoining room, with the audience encouraged to move to either room during the performance. The only rem­nant of this on the recording is that I am using some performance tapes where the clarinet has an unusual ambient sound because of the space or placement of the recording microphones.

I have performed the work widely since 1979 throughout the United States and Eastern and Western Europe. Recordings from several of these performances were chosen for this CD.

These pieces are not notated in any traditional form, but they are fixed in both formal ways and in many, if not most, details. Some expansion or contraction, some permutation of the material, does often take place in various performances. Many developed and changed over the months and years, some were dropped from the suite, new ones were added. I kept track of all the changes in a diaristic kind of notebook with entries for each practice session. There are four volumes in this diary so far, and I continue to make entries in preparing each new performance.

Most pieces in the suite make much use of alternate fingerings which produce "non-tem­pered" intervals with unusual, striking timbres. Often the genesis of a piece was in these dis­coveries which were then honed and shaped. Environmental sounds (Stream Flow...), gamelan music (Erne Kieine), the acoustics of the clarinet (Square Wave Walk—played while slowly whirling), mathematics (Six Fractal Fingers—an impression or imitation of fractal order), en pleine air playing (Reveille..., Long Distance) are some of the influences and images which guided me. In Clarinet Baby I revived a youthful prank of putting the mouthpiece into the lower joint of the clarinet. This, I noticed as an adult and composer, became a whole new, hybrid timbre made up of the two lowest registers of the instrument. I play this piece with the right hand, the left used only for a few articulations and for a strange hand-over-bell sound. This hand, when slowly removed, causes discrete jumps of pitch as the tube suddenly switches its mode of vibration. The point of all these technical and sonic discoveries is that they inspired me to look for the "right" composition to honor their special beauties. About some of the other songs I should add:

Whittling has a drone which seems to be continuous, but is actually interrupted by fingerings which alternate very quickly with the drone. Improvisation on these fingerings over the drone is like the strokes of the knife whittling a stick—the stick is the armature, controlling the knife's possibilities.

Slendro Dram is made with the left hand and right hand fingerings phasing with each other. One of these hands makes the pentatonic scale, reminiscent of the Indonesian Slendro scale. The tonguing of the resulting "notes" has a drum-like resonance, spiritually relating the piece to a "walk­ing bass" and also to some kinds of African drumming.

Clarinet Drum is played without blowing, fingers drumming on the clarinet's tube. In perfor­mance, I moved through the audience, putting either end of the clarinet to people's ears. A rhythm with variations forms the material of the piece.

Slendro is an unabashed homage to the Indonesian pentatonic scale of that name, tuned here in Western intervals. The scale is repeated but always accelerating or retarding gradually (adapting a sensuous Javanese technique), played in a resonant space which reinforces the sound.

Square Wave Walk plays on the "square wave" which is the clarinet's acoustic signature— every odd-numbered partial (harmonic) is emphasized.

Stream Flow with Irregularities was the first clarinet song, originally a trill, it became inflected with multiple fingerings. I was listening to a stream behind my house and noticed it was always changing, yet always the same. Occasionally a pop or plop would be dramatically new, yet... occur again a little later. This influenced the texture and development of the piece. But finally, it is those clarinet fingerings which prevail.

Clarinet Baby in this 1991 performance has some vocal remarks: the word "gong" is hoarsely uttered at the end of phrases which have gamelan-like melodic references.

Clarinet Trumpet is played without the mouthpiece. In live performances like this one, I move about, pointing the instrument in various directions, reinforcing the dramatically differ­ent sound qualities. I make improvisational physical gestures, including in this performance, pressing the clarinet bell to the surface of a drum, which creates a low, muffled sound during the middle of the piece.

# 2 was the second Clarinet Song to be composed in 1979.

There is nothing sacrosanct about the order of the pieces. Listeners may enjoy choosing tracks in any order.

Acknowledgements: Clarinet Songs was recorded in many different spaces, both recording studios and live performances, occasionally in a room in a house or a church. As near as can be remembered, those who helped make the recordings were: Lorry Polansky at Bregman Electronic Music Studio, Dartmouth College with Michael Casey, engineer: Alex Noyes and Jonathan Duckett, engineers at PASS [Harvestworks], NYC; Paul Reid, engineer, Mason Gross School of the Arts (Rutgers University): Chuck Singleton, engineer, producer at WXPN, Philadelphia; and Arthur Stidfole, engineer at Real Art Ways.

Daniel Goode taught himself circular breathing (an ancient as well as modern technique) in 1969 while studying experimental music in San Diego. He composed Circular Thoughts for unaccompanied clarinet around 1974 and performed it at the Kitchen Center in New York where it gained critical acclaim.

nother solo clarinet piece from the same time, Phrases of the, Hermit Thrush, is a note-:for-note transcription of a song of the Hermit Thrush recorded in Nova Scotia. This found its way into an orchestra piece with clarinet solo as well as into a collage of thrush songs and Cape Breton fiddle music, Five Thrushes - Two Fiddles and Piano, performed at the Kitchen in 1978. Clarinet Songs was premiered in the U.S. in 1979 and shortly afterwards in Europe.

t the same time Goode has always written large ensemble pieces like Tunnel-Funnel, performed at New Music America, New York in 1989, due for release on CR1; and Clothesline, a commission from the Philadelphia ensemble Relache, premiered during their 1992 season. He was a founding member of Gamelan Son of Lion in 1976 which fins performed his many works for gamelan as part of their large contemporary repertoire. In 1983 he formed with co-director, William Hellermann, the Down Town Ensemble which continues to premier his pieces (among those by many other composers), like the political mixed media Managua-Matagalpa-Music (1988) about the Nicaraguan revolution and Three Talking Sculptures for Election Day (1992) about American issues like guns, pornography, and sexual expression. He has taught full-time at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, since 1971, where he storied the Electronic Music Studio and began teaching, courses in new music and intermedia. Some of his concerns over the years have been politi­cal art and digital technology, guided improvisation, minimalism as a revolution in musical language, and cross-cultural composition.

His works are published and distributed by Theodore Presser and by Frog Peak Music (Hanover, NH) with recordings on Folkways and Opus One.