On their bold debut full length recording, the excellent Boston based bass clarinet and marimba duo Transient Canvas (Amy Advocat, bass clarinet & Matt Sharrock, marimba) present repertoire that explores the wide range of roles and textures these two instruments can assume with each other.
Duo repertoire is a fascinating exploration of the tension between monologue and dialogue, homogeneity and duality, and contrast versus hybridity. On their bold debut full length recording, the bass clarinet and marimba duo Transient Canvas (Amy Advocat, bass clarinet & Matt Sharrock, marimba) present repertoire that explores the wide range of roles and textures these two instruments can assume with each other. Notably, the repertoire on this recording largely steers clear of the combination’s most predictable texture — the marimba providing steady pulse oriented accompaniment to a soloistic bass clarinet. Instead, these works explore merged timbres, powerfully declamatory unison statements, and narrative structures to draw the listener into the colorful world of five substantial new works, all performed with a maturity beyond the years of these wonderful young performers. Daniel T. Lewis’ sift, the title track, opens with a haunting timbre. Each instrument intones in its low register, as beautifully revealed high overtones of the bass clarinet create a halo effect floating above. The work evolves patiently, as more pitches from the overtone series of the low fundamentals are explicitly articulated, and the bass clarinet begins to glide between the well tempered pitches of the marimba with gooey microtones. The bass clarinet takes a lead role in Tina Tallon’s dirty water, framing blistering outbursts, plaintive wailing, and bravura rips with percussive punctuations. Midway through the piece the dense activity gives way to haunting trills in both instruments before the insistent staccato punctuations signal a return to the denser, virtuosic material from the opening in a compressed coda. The raw energy of the attention grabbing opening of Curtis Hughes’ Vestibule III leads quickly into more introspective material. The composer describes the work as a “series of short, related duos that seem to exist in a state of perpetual transition between contrasting textural and stylistic worlds.” The dichotomy between driving, rhythmic textures and thoughtful, reflective moments predominates throughout. In John Murphree’s Purge, the duo finds plenty of opportunites to show off their individual chops and impeccable ensemble coordination, as both instruments dance around in kinetic passagework. Adam Roberts’ Nostalgia Variations is a perfect marriage of form and content, as it is an exploration of an affect of longing for the past in a form that had its heyday in prior centuries. Roberts’ creativity in finding fresh contexts for his poignant, emotive theme makes this twenty minute work remarkable. As with all great variations sets, the shape of the work as a whole is the sum of its component variations, and in this case Roberts is able to capture the wide range of expressive territory in the present that is associated with contemplating the loss of one’s past. He writes in the program note that the work is “about finding a way to engage with such emotions in, as a Buddhist would say, the middle path.” Not surpring then that Nostalgia Variations ends unresolved, with a disembodied statement of the opening theme that seems less to look back to the past as to look forward to the future, albeit with a question mark.