This Sunday, August 30th, my new clarinet quintet House Work will premiere on YouTube. I was lucky to be introduced to the Pogossian family in Los Angeles (remotely, of course) by Jay and Helen Schlichting, who suggested I write something for them to learn and record during quarantine, since all of our musical summer plans had been cancelled. The piece that resulted is a pocket theme-and-variations—lots of activity packed into a small space, befitting a family of five. We conducted rehearsals remotely over the past few weeks, then Jay (renaissance man that he is) filmed and recorded it as part of an online concert alongside music by Coleridge-Taylor and Bartók. I’m thrilled with how the piece is sounding in the Pogossian family’s capable hands, and excited to share it with you all come Sunday, August 30 at 10pm EDT / 7pm PDT.
I’ve loved Ann Southam’s Glass Houses ever since I heard pianist Sarah Cahill play one years ago. The music finds an ecstatic joy in severe, repeating structures, a quality it shares with much of my favorite minimalist art (as it turns out, the ‘Glass’ in the title was partly an homage to Philip’s music). One can also hear the influence of East-coast fiddle music in the bright, nimble melodies arranged in strophic phrases. But the trick of the pieces lies in the way they are notated, with independent hands; the left hand repeats an unchanging pattern throughout, while the right cycles through the melodies, which are completely independent metrically, therefore lining up a different way each time. To execute this requires a level of brain division I don’t think I’ve had to do before. I spent days doggedly stumbling through no. 14 before I was able to play even the first couple of patterns without derailing myself.