Frank McCarty—Compositions

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Variation Duos (1979-81) [16:28]
experimental style

B-flat Clarinet and Marimba

Publisher:
Soundlib Press

Recording:
McCarty: DUOS

This set of six variations uses conventional and advanced forms of notation. The performers employ conventional and extended techniques along with limited amounts of controlled improvisation. This is a very dynamic and coloristic concert piece and is adaptable: individual variations may stand alone or be played in other orderings.

Program Note:
Program Notes from Duos Album
Variation Duos for Clarinet and Marimba (1979/81) [16:53] was composed for Andrea and Robert Rosen, the Uwharrie Duo. The work received honorable mention in their international composition competition and continues to be one of their most-played pieces. It employs advanced performance techniques, extended forms of notation and, at times, controlled improvisation. Many of the sounds of this work exploit the fact that both instruments share the same basic timbre - a wave-form with prominent odd-numbered harmonics. The variations, which are also unified by a pitch-series, are independent in form and style. I addition, the piece is autobiographical in the sense that I am (was) both a clarinetist and marimbist.

Troches [1:09] (sounds like "tropes") is about inserting things inside other things. It is fast and energetic but without a controlling, repetitive meter.The title also refers impressionistically to the poetic foot, the "trochee." This piece presents the themes of the variations: individual timbres, the pitch-series, and many of the sounds and techniques later to be expanded.

Masque [2:08] is slow and only gradually evolving. It contains sound-masks - things becoming other things; and sound-masses - large, monolithic hunks of sound. Neither instrument acts much like its conventional self here, and they occasionally come together in certain shared areas.

Catch [2:01] is a stylized canon or (in French) "chasse," in which a musical unit is played and repeated by both performers but at different time-delayed intervals. After an accelerando, a unison moment marks the beginning of the first episode. The process that follows uses increasingly shorter versions of the original unit with a one-note difference between the two players. Each subsequent unison marks the beginning of the next episode. This, then, is a set of variations within a set of variations. It is the fastest and most virtuosic of the entire composition. It is also the mid-point of the work and functions as an internal finale, rounding off the first half of the piece to make it conform to an overall fast/slow/fast shape. From this point to the end, the piece refers both forwards and backwards in form, thematic content and expressive gestures.

Nocturne [4:22] is as a slow intermezzo related in a way to Bartokian "night music." It is indeterminate in form, allowing the improvising clarinetist great freedom of expression over the "matte" provided by the improvising marimbist. Some of the clarinet gestures, notated graphically without staves, refer back to their origins in the previous movements. The descending scalar passages, which break-back upon themselves, act as ritornelli.

Charm [3:56] ("march" rotated) is a compound binary divertimento, functioning in a way similar to a minuet and trio in the standard sonata cycle. Relating back to the Nocturne on a formal level, it features the other member of the duo. This is actually a timbre-based "drum solo" for marimba, cast in traditional march-form, even to the extent of having a breakup strain. While the repeated patterns refer back to Catch-
techniques, they are both additive and subtractive in nature. The different mallet-timbres march forwards and backwards as well. The trio of this march is an improvised solo in the marimba. Some of the clarinet accompaniments and motives come from Troches. The "da capo" reverses the roles of the performers (like Masque), with clarinet-drumming. And, as in any good march, the piece ends with a "stinger."

Spondes [2:52] (rhymes with "fronds") presents formal recapitulations of elements from previous variations interlaced by a new ritornello idea. It begins with materials from Troches, including the opening "motto" gestures, the fast, non-metered style and the basic idea of things inside other things. The title refers to another poetic structure ("spondaic") and to the fact that the movement reSpond(e)s to all the previous
ones. The successive reminders of previous variations work in an almost "collage" fashion.


PROGRAM NOTE (old)
VARIATION DUOS for Clarinet and Marimba (1979/81), by Frank McCarty (b.1941), employs advanced performance techniques, extended forms of notation and, at times, controlled improvisation. The sounds of this work exploits the fact that both instruments share the same basic timbre - a wave-form with prominent odd-numbered harmonics.
1. Troches (sounds like "tropes") is about inserting things inside other things. It is fast and energetic but without a controlling, repetitive meter. This presents the themes of the variations: individual timbres, a pitch-series, and many of the sounds and techniques to be later expanded.
2. Masque contains (a) sound-masks - things becoming other things; and (b) sound-masses - large, monolithic hunks of sound. Neither instrument acts as its conventional self here, and both occasionally meet in certain shared-areas.
3. Catch is a stylized canon in which a musical structure is played and repeated at changing time-delayed intervals. Each phrase-beginning unison marks the beginning of the next variation, based upon successive shortenings of the original unit.
4. Nocturne is as a slow intermezzo. It is indeterminate in form, allowing the improvising clarinetist freedom of expression over the "matte" provided by the marimba. Some earlier ideas may be heard here as well.
5. Charm, ("march" rotated) is a divertimento featuring the other member of the ensemble. It is a timbre-based "drum solo" for marimba, in traditional march-form (even with a breakup strain).
6. Spondes presents formal recapitulations of elements from previous movements interlaced by a new ritornello idea.

VARIATION DUOS (1979/81) for clarinet and marimba is performed here by Andrea and Robert Rosen, the Uwharrie Duo. This work received honorable-mention in their international composition competition and continues to be one of their most-played pieces. It includes many advanced performance techniques, extended forms of notation and, at times, controlled improvisation. The "sound" of this work exploits the fact that both instruments share the same basic timbre, a wave-form with prominent odd-numbered harmonics. The variations, which are unified by a pitch-series, are independent in form and style except for the last, which recapitulates some previous ideas.
1. Troches (rhymes with Tropes) is about inserting things inside other things. The title also refers impressionistically to the poetic foot, the "trochee." It is fast and energetic yet does not have a controlling, repetitive meter. It presents the "themes" of the variations: the basic pitch-set, and, many of the sounds and techniques to be expanded later.
2. Masque contains (a) sound-masks, things becoming other things; and (b) sound-masses, large "hunks" of sound. Neither instrument should be recognized as representing its conventional self and both meet in certain shared-areas. 3. Catch is a kind-of canon or (in French), a "chaisse" in which the musical units are played and repeated at changing time-delayed intervals. Each "unison" moment (when the beams coincide) is the beginning of the next variation, each uses increasingly shorter units. This movement is essentially a set of variations, within a set of variations.
This is the mid-point of the piece. Catch acts as an internal finale. It is the fastest and most virtuosic (as you well know) of the set. It also rounds-out the first 1/2 of the piece, conforming to an overall fast/slow/fast shape. From here on, the piece refers both forwards and backwards in form, thematic and expressive content.
4. Nocturne acts as a slow "intermezzo" which is related to the Bartokian "night music" style, but potentially, is somewhat more emotional and dynamic. It is indeterminate in form, allowing the improvising clarinetist great freedom of expression over the "matte" provided by the marimba. You play this quite beautifully, by the way - the best I have heard anyone do it. The licks, written graphically without staves, refer back to their origins in the first and second movements. The descending scaler passages, which break-back upon themselves, act as ritornelli. These are the only "new" materials. 5. Charm, a rotated march, acts like the minuet in sonata form. It is a "divertimento," pairing backwards to the Nocturne on a formal level and it features the other member of the ensemble. I conceived it as a timbre "drum solo" for marimba, in traditional march-form - even with a breakup strain, yet. The improvised solo is the "trio." The repeated patterns refer back to Catch-techniques, but are both additive and subtractive, with the mallet-timbres marching forwards and backwards as well. Some of the accompaniments and motives come from Troches. The "da capo" reverses the roles of the performers (like Masque), with clarinet-drumming, and ends with a "stinger." 6. Spondes begins with other materials from Troches: (a) the opening "motto" licks, (b) the fast, non-metered style and (c) the idea of things inside other things. It is obviously a formal recapitulation of elements from all the movements, but with another "new" idea (machine-like music) acting as a ritornello. If you make a prime-by-inversion matrix of the row, you can easily figure out how I got the pitch successions. The title refers to poetic structure (spondaic) and to the fact that the movement reSpond(e)s to all the previous ones. The successive reminders of previous movements work in almost "collage" fashion, and I had a real sense of "things within things within things" in writing it.
Now, the reasons I could write this thing: I am (was) both a clarinetist and percussionist; I studied advanced notation, timbre and new instrumental techniques in my doctoral program; I worked with many non-weird clarinetists (you, Gariglio, students) developing the stops so that many could at least get close to playing them. By the way, even though this uses a 12-tone row, it is NOT a serial piece; it is a timbre piece.