Creative Works

Autumn Variations

For B-flat clarinet, bassoon, and piano; 25 miniature variations (2001) 23:46
John Fullam, clarinet; Glenn Einschlag, bassoon, and Donald Rebic, piano
Sample tracks include silence between sections not written into the score.

This set of continuous variations for clarinet, bassoon, and piano is based on musical analogs for the grammatical and syntactical structures in a poem titled Autumn by Missouri author Elizabeth Jones Hanley.  Preoccupied with the organization of sounds in spoken language and their counterparts in music, the composer allows word sound, syllable count, phrase lengths and vowel concentrations to generate parallel musical hierarchies and evolutions within the twenty-five sections of the composition.  There is a continuous play on the rhythmic pattern produced by the stresses and releases within the poetic lines.

The first eighteen sections of the composition occur in groups of two within which a simple exposition (premise) is immediately followed by a variant (response) wherein a filigree of additional notes enhances both the contrapuntal and harmonic texture.  The fifth couplet of variations begins with a lighthearted capriccio followed by its attendant response.

The composition closes with a series of seven coda-like sections beginning with a brief canon followed by cadenzas for each of the three instruments.  Cadenza I (clarinet) and II (bassoon) are each followed by an intermezzo.  Cadenza III (piano) ushers in a much slower variation (finale) suggestive of basic rhythms from the opening moments of the piece and brings the composition to a quiet and reflective close.

Though poetic language structure is by far the most important aspect of the relationship between the poem and the music, the musical composition does reflect a programmatic awareness of seasonal reflections on autumn as well as an implied reference to the autumn of a life cycle.

Autumn
By Elizabeth Jones Hanley, from The Art of Making Tea

Slashed with rain,
the leaves turn
brass red and yellow
against the grey clouds.
Cool wind.
The chimes
outside my window
tell me winter
is drawing near.

Copyright © 2008 Donald Bohlen.

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