New Music for Clarinet and Voice

This past winter I had the privilege of teaching several wonderful clarinet students at the College of Wooster in Wooster, NE Ohio. I was subbing for Hild Peersen, who took the semester off to have a baby.

One of the students, Quinn Dizon, is a composition major. I asked if he would like to compose a piece for clarinet during the semester. He said yes.

The following is the result of that project. I performed the piece in April on a composer's recital at Wooster. Andrew LeVan, a voice (and trombone) student at Wooster, sang the tenor part. I was heartily impressed with the abilities of both these young men!!

It's called, "American Day", for clarinet and tenor, and is based on 3 American poems chosen by Quinn Dizon. Quinn wrote some program notes, so I figured you'd like to see those. The poems are also copied below. As for the clarinet part, Quinn wrote well for the instrument, covering the full expressive, dynamic and note range of the instrument. The part was challenging enough, but not too awkward. The music is beautifully written and brings to life the mood and words of the poems through voice and clarinet.

I am delighted to present it here, since it is not published (yet). If you would like to perform it, please let me know, and I'll put you in touch with Mr. Dizon.

American Day, Movt. 1, Dawn

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American Day, Movt. 2, Music

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American Day, Movt. 3, Serenade

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Program Notes by Quinn Dizon:

American day was composed by Quinn Dizon, and was commissioned in January of 2009 by David Thomas (Clarinet). It consists of three movements, and is scored for Bb clarinet and tenor voice.

American Day received its name for two reasons. First, all the poetry used in the three movements was written by American poets. Second, the overall structure is supposed to depict the coming and going of a day.

The first movement is called Dawn, and is set to a poem depicting early morning bird songs. It begins with the waking chatter of the birds introduced in a short clarinet cadenza. The voice shortly enters, introducing the principle “dawn” motive. Throughout Dawn, the clarinet and voice constantly digress to new themes, but always return the principle motive. Dawn ends softly per the words, “… songs cease.” The rising chatter of the birds calms and fades away into the distance as they fly away towards a new day.

The second movement is called Music, and is about the various places in which one might find the gentle and terrifying sounds of the day. Music is composed in three parts: an A section, followed by a strikingly different B section, and the return to A. The A material is calm, and mild in character, and was influenced in part by another American composer, Aaron Copland. In the opening section, the tenor sings of a distant music, coming from all things in the world. The movement soon diverges into a more aggressive mood for the B section. This section is marked by wide leaps, and fast ascending scales in the clarinet, making it difficult to discern any single melodic line. The voice interjects that the true places to find music is in the scum and dirt of the earth. This section builds to a climax with a clarinet cadenza that uses the fast scale like motion of the B section, but the pitch material from the A section, creating a bridge between the two. The A section returns even more gently than before, using the same words repeated. The movement ends hopefully, claiming that there is still music to be heard in all places of the world.

The third movement is called Serenade, and begins mysteriously and lightly as if the illustrate the peaceful ending of the day. However, it soon becomes apparent that it is not a song of rest, but rather a song of waking. The words, “Sleep not!” are repeated, each time becoming more persistent. As the day and night spiral in a never-ending cycle, Serenade ends with the rise of the sun. To bring the sun, the voice begins a broad melody, and overhead, the clarinet lightly trills as the sun and the animals begin to wake. All motion suddenly drops away, and the clarinet reintroduces the principle material from the first movement. The words to end the piece are changed from their original statement of, “Look out upon the stars…” to, “Look out upon the dawn.” The work ends in rising triumphant glory of the sun retaking the earth.

Poems used for American Day:

By Williams Carlos williams

Ecstatic bird songs pound
the hollow vastness of the sky
with metallic clinkings--
beating color up into it
at a far edge,--beating it, beating it
with rising, triumphant ardor,--
stirring it into warmth,
quickening in it a spreading change,--
bursting wildly against it as
dividing the horizon, a heavy sun
lifts himself--is lifted--
bit by bit above the edge
of things,--runs free at last
out into the open--!lumbering
glorified in full release upward--
songs cease.

By Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let me go where'er I will,
I hear a sky-born music still:
It sounds from all things old,
It sounds from all things young,
From all that's fair, from all that's foul,
Peals out a cheerful song.

It is not only in the rose,
It is not only in the bird,
Not only where the rainbow glows,
Nor in the song of woman heard,
But in the darkest, meanest things
There alway, alway something sings.

'T is not in the high stars alone,
Nor in the cup of budding flowers,
Nor in the redbreast's mellow tone,
Nor in the bow that smiles in showers,
But in the mud and scum of things
There alway, alway something sings.

By Edward Coote Pinkney

LOOK out upon the stars, my love,
And shame them with thine eyes,
On which, than on the lights above,
There hang more destinies.
Night's beauty is the harmony
Of blending shades and light;
Then, Lady, up,--look out, and be
A sister to the night!--

Sleep not!--thine image wakes for aye
Within my watching breast:
Sleep not!--from her soft sleep should fly,
Who robs all hearts of rest.
Nay, Lady, from thy slumbers break,
And make this darkness gay,
With looks, whose brightness well might make
Of darker nights a day.

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6 comments for “New Music for Clarinet and Voice

  1. David Hamilton
    January 29, 2012 at

    This is a very nice piece. I am programming a recital for myself, a tenor, clarinet, and piano. I have been frustrated that there are few pieces written for this combination, mostly soprano and clarinet. I am very interested in obtaining this score. Thank you.
    David Hamilton

    • January 31, 2012 at

      Sorry, the composer’s email is no longer working, and I don’t have a new one for him. I’ll see if I can find him and tell him you’d like to play his piece.

  2. July 31, 2011 at

    I would like to start off by congratulating you all on this wonderful collaboration. This is really, rather splendid. I am pursuing an Arts Administration degree with a secondary degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Northern Iowa and have been searching for recital literature that consist of either a chamber ensemble of a solo instrument. I would sincerely like to acquire this music for performance purposes and would appreciate any help you could provide in doing so. Again, these pieces were really wonderful and I would feel very honored including this cycle on a recital.

    Sincerely Grateful,

    Juan Ahumada Jr

    • August 1, 2011 at

      Thank you for your comment and interest in this piece. I have forwarded your request to the composer. Mr. Dizon should be in touch with you by email.

      David Thomas

  3. October 5, 2009 at

    Fine writing, and a fine performance, bravi!

    • October 5, 2009 at

      Hi Karl. I was impressed with his writing, too. Quite mature for a Junior. I think he'll do well. I hope you send me some of your clarinet music to try as well.

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