This is Not a Clarinet
Three Island Duos by Michael Tenzer
Evan Ziporyn, clarinets
Produced by Evan Ziporyn and Joel Gordon.
"This is Not a Clarinet is a recording, a record of some recent thoughts about the clarinet, as an instrument, as a cultural object, as an extension of myself, physically and metaphysically. As the title 'Partial Truths' implies, its only claims to objectivity are incomplete and full of overtones; as 'Impersonations' indicates, its subjectivity is both internal and artificial. The starting point for all the works are also double-edged: musically, they start with acoustics, with the idea that musical substance resides in the entire overtone spectrum (the 'partials') rather than simply in the fundamentals; culturally, that the clarinet is an oral, folk instrument, whose function has always been to mediate between western and non-western music, between classical and non-classical idioms.
Thus new works by contemporary American composers (Lang, Tenzer) which spring from vernacular inspirations (James Brown, Croatian vocal music, etc.) are placed next to re-workings of traditional musics from Japan, Bali, and East Africa ('Impersonations'). And 'Partial Truths' tries to pull it all together, at least provisionally.
The pieces all mediate between worlds, thereby creating unique compositional languages: David Lang describes his piece as trying to 'find the place where James Brown meets J.S. Bach' - and of course the result sounds only like Lang. Each of Tenzer's pieces are fantasies built around far-flung, overlooked musical traditions...Krk-y is based on duo singing on an island near Croatia; Biak-words is based on the interlocking ornamental patterns of Bali; Bouvet Fanfare is, well, based on a piece of mine, but puts it through very un-Evan-like paces...
As for the impersonations, they are simply less abstracted versions: I transcribed these works carefully, and found extended playing techniques-microtonal fingerings, multiphonics, circular breathing, etc-to replicate them as closely as possible. Of course, the result, as with Lang and Tenzer, is not a replication but a newly discovered facet of the instrument and a path to new directions in my future work.
In my twenties I wrote clarinet music to express myself; in my thirties I wrote no clarinet music at all. Now I'm 41, I try to let the self-expression and the self-abnegation take care of themselves. Rather, I'm trying to look into and through the fundamentals, staring at and past the boundaries, trying to see what's there, what's on the other side, and what the connection might be. And trying to keep you posted as I go."