Reflections on Art and Life
(Samples from a live performance by Jeffrey St. John Sherwood, clarinet and Melony Maness, piano, March 29, 2009.)
I am happy to unveil Two Moods – my latest composition for clarinet and piano, written for clarinetist Jeffrey St John Sherwood.
Jeffrey and I discussed collaboration on a piece as early as spring of 2007, but because of time constraints and other projects I was involved in, it wasn’t until last November that the idea for the composition began to emerge.
I anticipated couple of weeks of uninterrupted writing time in December and I remember telling Jeffrey that the time has finally come because I was beginning to “hear things.” I had a sudden rush of ideas. I improvised on the piano and scribbled on the whiteboard in my studio, then jotted some runs and adjectives on staff paper.
But before I committed to any of them I really wanted to hear Jeffrey’s take on the piece. Jeffrey proved to be rather undemanding and told me that he trusted my judgment. His only request was that I don’t write academic “think” music. He wanted “mood” and “feel” music. This, of course, was music to my ears (pun intended).
My initial instincts were on target. I decided to explore two contrasting moods. Thus, the first movement entitled Haunted illustrates an eerie, suspenseful feeling, intertwined with passages of sheer panic and terror. I recalled my childhood struggle with the fear of darkness and I wanted to confront those kinds of cold-sweat fears in my music. Haunted takes a few unexpected turns and is bound to “freak out” those who enjoy the lyrical aspect of my compositions.
Wind Chimes, if one can brave through Haunted, brings the listener to the other side of the emotional spectrum. In this movement I wanted to portray a feeling of freedom, release, and beauty. Perhaps I owe the inspiration to the wind chimes on my deck, which have been a faithful companion to my writing since last fall. Somehow I had managed to write several other pieces ignoring their gentle rattle, but this time the chimes finally found their voice in the abundance of the pentatonic melodic and harmonic figures in the movement.