Quirk

for bass clarinet and computer

Composed: 2010
Duration: 9'

Program Notes

In much of the music I write, the title comes first and has tremendous impact on the resultant score.  When I set out to write a piece for bass clarinet and computer, the word "quirk" came to mind.  Something about the sound of it reminds me of the low notes of the bass clarinet, particularly when played with slap-tongue.  Messrs. Merriam and Webster define "quirk" as "a peculiar trait."  For me, the word always carries a further, slightly negative connotation, as if these idiosyncratic traits are just a little bit dirty – the sort of thing any decent person would keep under wraps.  Nevertheless, as a composer, my quirks are an abiding love of groove and popular music, as well as an on-again, off-again romance with post-minimalist developmental techniques, and something of an infatuation with granular processing.  The piece "Quirk" explores all of these in depth.  It's just as well: the second definition of "quirk" is "a groove separating a bead or other molding from adjoining members." Clearly, even our lexicographers see the links between quirks and grooves.

Score and Recording

Click the PDF icon below to view or print the score. (N.B. the score is set up for printing on 11" x 17" paper.) For the other performance materials, including the necessary software, please contact me.

Link to PDF of score

 

Performance and Technical Notes

  1. The computer part of this work is programmed in Max (v. 5 or later). It is readily available from the composer and runs with the free Max Runtime application (included in the software package). The software comes with detailed instructions for setup and operation. Feel free to contact the composer for help with the software or with any other questions about the piece.
  2. This piece requires the performer to trigger the computer a number of times throughout its duration. The use of a footpedal is recommended. If a footpedal is not available, a second operator can trigger the computer. The computer defaults to expecting an HID footpedal, but several other options are available. Please contact the composer with any questions about how to connect and operate the footpedal. Please see the chart below for an overview of graphic symbols used in the score, including the symbol for the footpedal.
  3. This work makes extensive use of real-time computer processing of the bass clarinet performance. The use of a high-quality microphone – preferably a condenser microphone – is thus imperative. To the extent possible, the mic should be positioned to pick up a balanced sound from the entire bass clarinet. The mic must be routed into MaxMSP as described in the software.
  4. This piece is heavily influenced by popular music, especially hip-hop and funk. In the hall, it should be quite loud, as at a dance club – nearly but not quite deafening. The software provides mixing controls over all the various elements of the work (live clarinet, live processing, drum grooves, etc.). The mix between the clarinet and the computer should be equal, with the clarinet clearly audible but not mixed in front of the computer. Please note as well: drawing on hip-hop, the work features extended low-frequency content. The use of a high-quality sound reinforcement system, preferably with one or more subwoofers, is recommended. The work is available in 2-, 5-, and 8-channel versions, and is easily extensible to more channels.
  5. In the two sections marked "Freely" (mm. 45-74 and 115-142), the performer should take the indicated tempo as a suggestion for the average tempo. He or she should play with a reasonable amount of rubato and also take brief pauses as desired, for breath or to achieve interpretative goals. In these sections, the computer follows the performer, triggered by the footpedal. In the rest of the piece, the tempo is strict. However, within that strict tempo, the performer should play with a certain amount of flexibility, to match the feel of the drum grooves as they change over time.
  6. This piece calls for several extended techniques in the bass clarinet part, especially slap-tongue and harmonics. The slap-tongue should have a very percussive attack with a clearly defined pitch and bass clarinet tone following it. Avoid losing the tone of the note through an over-explosive attack. For the harmonics, a fingered bass note is provided but is not to be heard. The notated harmonic pitches are desired but not strictly necessary. The shape of the line and the tone color of harmonics are more important than the specific pitches. For example, it is perfectly fine if the harmonics are not completely pure or if a harmonic glissando is achieved through changing the fingering instead of through a change in the shape of the oral cavity.