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Life Passes in Transformation

    CHAMBER MUSIC clarinet quintet
    1 Clarinet, 2 violins, 1 viola, 1 cello

    Duration: ca. 9 minutes
    Composed: 1992

    Programme Note: Life Passes in Transformation was written for James Campbell and the Allegri Quartet and was premiered in Leeds, England in 1993.  The title, which comes from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, not only describes the music itself, but also the philosophical journey that brought me to it.

    Philosophically, the title means to me that each event in our lives is a development of whatever preceded it.  All events become stepping stones that lead smoothly and logically along one path, but which may seem very disjunct if examined out of context.  In order to achieve this transformation we must be aware of the events taking place, absorb them, and move from them.  Without this awareness and active participation, transformation is not possible. 

    The piece begins in extreme simplicity; a whole tone cluster around E is passed quietly throughout the quintet, free of reference to rhythm or metre.  Whatever pulse or direction that occurs is supplied by the dynamics, with each pitch coming in or out of focus as the crescendo indicates.  The second entry is the first transformation of this idea.  The repetition of the E suggests rhythmic pulse, the trill suggests motion, and F natural added to the cluster suggests a fuller harmonic palette.  The path then is from a single note without rhythm to a multi-layered texture of thematic and rhythmic diversity.

    The rhythmic transformation is perhaps slightly more complex if only because the sections that are free of rhythmic guidelines sound more intricate than those sections in a defined metre.  The metric section is a perpetual motion with “free” solo lines added.  My aim with this over lay was to capture the essence of a jazz quintet where four players are quite literally the “rhythm section” providing a solid support over which to solo.

    Premiere: First performance by James Campbell and the Allegri String Quartet, Clothworker’s Hall, Leeds, February 11, 1993

    Kelly-Marie Murphy, composer