for piccolo and e-flat clarinet

commissioned by Liam Hockley


Performance History

  • Performed by Laura Cocks and Liam Kinson at the City University of New York on April 19, 2016.
  • Performed by Stephanie Bell and Liam Hockley at the University of Victoria (Victoria, Canada) on March 28, 2014.
  • Premiered by Stephanie Bell and Liam Hockley at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) on March 27, 2014.

Program Notes

Notables derives its title from Ben Marcus’ Notable American Women, a kaleidoscopic story that grew from a fictional encyclopedia. Descriptions of figures, dates, and procedures outline a strange world, overlapping with but distinct from our own, that never quite coheres. The categories within both compartmentalize and disrupt.

My own kaleidoscopic history fed this work:

– Problems with and attractions to trills: Steven Kazuo Takasugi criticizing their presence in my work, clarinetist Liam Hockley nimbly working through them in Gianluca Ulivelli’s Lacerato CorpoNotables reopens my dialogue with trills.

– “Shortcuts to thinking”: Matt Williamson, one of my favorite NFL analysts, often derides truisms as shortcuts to thinking. Real life is often messier and more obtuse. Composing often has me fighting against such shortcuts to thinking and attempts to artificially clarify a situation that is naturally opaque. The more I can resist reductionism, the better the piece.

– “Control requires loosening, not tightening”: College of Charleston drawing professor Sara Frankel once said this to me, and the idea stuck. Technical fluency is defined by fluidity and grace, not muscular dominance. Certain details can only be rendered by flexibility, of concept, control, and execution. Dominating my sound world constrains, whereas relaxing my grip frees. This is not an argument against precision – Notables has a surfeit of it – but a shift in perspective on how, and what kind of, details are arrived at.

– The relationship of a duo: My pieces for two players always become about the intimacy of pieces for two players. Direct, one-on-one communication. Notables was written for familiar collaborators and friends, and this affability suffused some decisions. While often distinct, the parts remain coupled in many ways, perpetually acknowledging and accommodating each others’ perspective.

This piece was graciously commissioned by Liam Hockley for himself and Stephanie Bell. I can not say enough about his fearlessness and eagerness. It is extremely meaningful to write for someone who is up for anything, and seeking challenge. I am forever grateful.