Waiting by the Phone

1986, 12' for solo Bb clarinet

First performance: Hertz Hall, Berkeley, CA, 1986 - Evan Ziporyn, clarinet

Recording: Animal Act (Cantaloupe) 1993 - Evan Ziporyn, clarinet

This is a cognitive self-portrait, an attempt to convey a way of being (thought, action, experience) that, for better or worse, prevailed within me in the mid-1980s. Something related to John Lennon’s, ‘Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” This piece being the feeling of that particular ‘what happens.’ In common with many composers writing for melodic instruments, I attempt to give the illusion of polyphony, multiple lines, harmony. As in all true polyphony, no single line prevails: here this combines with a wandering sense of tempo to project a somewhat diffuse consciousness, only gradually and ephemerally becoming aware of its own nature. There are four sections, the first three roughly modeled on Hindustani alap, jhala, and tal. The fourth and final section came out of late nights rehearsing in Berkeley’s Hertz Hall (all other plans having fallen through), where I could roam the huge stage and go up and down the aisles while playing, then stop to regard the resonance gradually turn into silence.

Like all my clarinet music, I wrote this for myself; unlike my more recent pieces, I didn’t really consider the possibility of another player trying to decipher my intentions. So the original version had no instructions other than the markings at the beginning of each section. I later typed up the explanations printed on the page preceding the score, with the intention of giving players the same latitude I gave myself regarding dynamics, tempo, timbre, etc. It comes down to this: feel free.