The City Dreams (2005) for solo bass clarinet
During my postgraduate studies in the UK, I was lucky enough (and floored!) to have Harry Spaarnay premiere I piece that I had written for solo bass clarinet. The premiere took place at the University of Tokyo (July 2005). Spaarnay is an internationally well-known, phenomenal player and I was truly honoured.
The City Dreams (2005) pays homage to jazz musician Eric Dolphy’s rendition of Billie Holiday’s ‘God Bless the Child’. I first thought of writing the piece when I heard a visiting bass clarinettist (not Spaarnay) masterfully perform Dolphy’s work. I was hooked: and I decided then and there to write a piece that would honour both Dolphy, and Holiday. The title is a quote from a comic book I read years ago: the narrative follows a man who wakes up (or dreams that he wakes up), and slowly realizes that he has entered the ‘dreaming mind’ of the city.
2009 is the anniversary of the death of Billie Holiday (1915-1959).
The following is an excerpt from a paper I wrote that includes a few paragraphs about The City Dreams. Apologies are in order for not including a recording of my piece with this blog-I’ll keep you updated!
“This piece pays homage to Eric Dolphy’s version of ‘God Bless the Child’, and it also investigates some aspects of extended bass clarinet techniques. These include singing, the use of extreme vibrato, flutter tonguing and vocalizing, as well as pitch modulation and other types of breath techniques to create different sounds: (the square notes denote singing)
Occasionally the soloist is also asked to create a controlled improvisation, indicated by containing an event within a graphic square and using stemless notes.
The performance of this piece should be as lyrical, sweet and gentle as possible, and I have tried to formally express this by incorporating arpeggiated chordal patterns into the work that are reminiscent of Eric Dolphy’s original improvisation. While this piece is not based on any particular harmonic scheme, the juxtaposed sonorities are dominated primarily by the use of perfect, diminished and augmented chords. Major and minor thirds are prevalent as well.
The last third of the piece begins with the third measure on page 5 of the score, and it is reminiscent of the opening two measures of the work. A simple dialogue is created between a non-repeated arpeggiated pattern that resolves into a concert ‘E’; this then culminates (on the last page of the score) in a series of arpeggiated chords, ending with a small gestural written ritenuto and closing (very quietly) on single notes.”