ensemble two violins and piano
duration 13 minutes
written spring 2010
commissioned by Wendy Sharp and Tema Watstein
premièred June 13, 2010, New Haven, CT
published by ↪ Project Schott New York
When the violinist Wendy Sharp asked me for a new piece, I knew I wanted to write something about pedagogy. Wendy’s life is devoted to teaching other people, from the tiniest of babies to the surliest of graduate students, about playing and understanding music.
The violin is the instrument with the second-best repertoire to choose from, after the piano. Despite this, young violinists (and this seems to be the same all over the world) endure years of studying what could kindly be called “pedagogical” literature. This is the music you work on before you’re to be trusted with a Brahms sonata, and it was mostly written by other violinists expressly for that purpose. As a former accompanist to many of Wendy’s students and an older brother to one, I’ve learned much of this sub-genre by proxy.
Clamber Music is a free set of variations on a theme, in reverse (each successive section bears more relation to the theme). The theme in question is an amalgamation of the sublime and the somewhat less sublime: Schubert’s Moments Musicaux no. 2, and Johan Svendsen’s Romance in G. I’ve always mentally associated the two because they share the same first four notes. The end of the piece is a kind of Gradus ad Parnassum, though also in reverse.