Dedicated to Gleb Kanasevich | duration 20 minutes
shapeshifter for clarinet in Eb [soloist] and ensemble: flute, violin, violoncello, guitar, piano and percussion *
*Marimba [5 octaves]; Deep, resonant bass drum; 4 Tom-toms ranging from low to high; large, deep Tam-tam; 4 differently pitched resonant wooden objects ranging from low to high [non-specific drums, boxes, barrels, bowls, planks, logs etc.] or 4 differently pitched temple / wood blocks ranging from low to high; 5 differently pitched resonant metal objects [boxes, tubing, saucepans, plates etc.] ranging from low to high; High-Hat; Gong [resonant – specific or non-specific pitch]; Metal Wind Chimes [can be unorthodox ‘home-made’ cutlery jangles or such like to create the effect of resonant metal wind chimes].
shapeshifter, concerto for E-flat clarinet and sextet was premiered on the 10th July 2015 with the wonderful ensemble of soundSCAPE Festival faculty and top notch student artists in Maccagno, Italy.
The instrumentalists play independently of each other. Music is cued to begin only with instruments starting at the same time. There is no ‘fixed’ synchronisation between the instrumentalists. Whilst the relationship of each instrument is flexibly placed against its neighbour, care has been taken to calculate potential outcomes of coincidence and variability. To this end it is vital that metronome markings and time code are adhered to as accurately as possible although the composer appreciates that it is the various interpretations and practicalities inherent in the realisation of tempi that contribute to the richly unique nature and interplay of each performance.
Compositional material is derived from a series of distant variations that unify all sections with thematic landmarks. Thematic material is audible throughout the piece, bringing cohesion and structure to the work. All the instrumental roles are written to a high degree of virtuosity and most contain extended techniques and quarter-tones. The music itself forms dense, highly complex and constantly changing relationships that are frequently wild and sometimes beautiful.
The score and parts:
I have not produced a score for shapeshifter; difficulties and variables associated with displaying the musical material in vertical alignment as represented in real time are considerable. Each performance will yield somewhat different results, interplays, gestural and harmonic references and outcomes. As a result, the material contained within the piece can only be read via the instrumental parts. Consequently there is no definitive performance of the piece. shapeshifter can only be realised through performance [as opposed to comprehended by reading through a score]; this is the nature of the music – it has to be experienced to be ‘known’.
A note about the title:
In mythology, folklore and fantasy fiction, shapeshifting, or metamorphosis is the ability of an entity to physically transform into another being or form. This is usually achieved through an inherent faculty of a mythological creature, divine intervention, or the use of magic spells or talismans. The idea of shapeshifting has been present since antiquity. It is present in the oldest forms of totemism and shamanism, as well as the oldest extant literature and epic poems, including works such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad, where the shapeshifting is usually induced by the act of a deity. The idea persisted through the Middle Ages, where the agency causing shapeshifting is usually a sorcerer or witch, and into the modern period. It remains a common trope in modern fantasy, children’s literature, and works of popular culture. The most common form of shapeshifting myths is that of therianthropy, which is the transformation of a human being into an animal or conversely, of an animal into human form. Legends allow for transformations into plants and objects, and the assumption of another human countenance (e.g. fair to ugly).
The title for this piece was ‘found’ after the work was completed. As the title suggests, the music in shapeshifter is in a constant state of flux and transformation and is conceived as an abstract progression of sounds with no intended narrative or programme.
Marc Yeats – January 2015