CATALOG > Electric Clarinet
20th Century Music - January, 1998 - by Mark Alburger
"Just about any instrument can be treated as a trigger for electro-acoustic adventures, so why not the clarinet? One possible response is that by Burton Beerman and F. Gerard Errante, in an entertaining album that sums it up succinctly – "Electric Clarinet" (Capstone). Despite the multiple layers of sound, the singular instrumental designation in the title is appropriate, as no more than one of the performers is heard per piece. In any case, the results are captivating, and the spirit behind the enterprise is likewise. Indeed, the performers’ comments seem to capture the tone of our times. "It is our hope that this is an album not about technology, but about making music with the clarinet assisted by technological extensions. … We have enjoyed the process of creating this album and hope you will find it enlightening, edifying, and above all, entertaining." The "Three E’s" – enlightening, edifying, and entertaining – are words to keep in mind. Beerman takes his own god advice, beginning with "Masks," in a plethora of voices and contrapuntal echoic vociferations. His "Moondance" (1990), triggers a whole orchestra of percussion and strings, against funky jazz licks in the manner of Richard Stoltzman, while "Wind Whispers, Sounds, and Shouts" bounces along in its positively joyous past-minimal manner. This latter ultimately stretches out into a fat, heroic, droney chorale-like cadence coda, sprinkled with upper-line fantasies.
Errante performs all the rest of the selections on the CD, starting with the vivacious Eastern-tinged "Ningana" for clarinet, electronics, and tape. Reflecting the "Three E’s," this work is, dare we say it, "Fun"? Composer Jan Brockman does: "[A] rather rowdy second movement (with tape) . . . was designed to be fun to listen to and to play. Mr. Errante employs a pitch-following device called the Pitchrider: it tracks the notes played on the clarinet and rapidly sends note messages to a synthesizer. The result is perceived as an ensemble performance." Yes. And speaking of fun, "Hilarious" is never a word that I’ve linked up with Vladimir Ussachevsky, but it works here (although "whimsical" is the word in the notes). This veteran of tape music continues to impress in "Four Studies for Clarinet and EVI" with sounds ranging from saxlike to sexlike.
True to its title, Thea Musgrave’s "Narcissus" (1986-87) is by far the most introspective and self-indulgent, running a long 15’30". Digital delay is utilized for the echo of reality and myth, with a nice call-and-response between active arpeggic and more lyrical material. The low-tech analog would be playing in a super-reverberant stairwell, but occasionally interesting pulsating effects are set up in the more insistent passages. The rippling, watery arpeggios are perfectly appropriate to the storyline, and also echo Crumb’s flute-writing in the equally aquatic "Vox Balaenae," while some of the more boogieing, rocketing phrases at the end call to mind an unaccompanied Copland "Clarinet Concerto" finale.
F. Gerard Errante’s "Elegy for Gilda" is in memory of not the operatic character, but a dog. It takes its cue from Musgrave in a solemn manner."
The ELECTRIC CLARINET showcases the specialized artistry of F. Gerard Errante and Burton Beerman. It contains seven selections exploring the multi-timbral concepts of solo clarinet enhanced by a variety of electronics. With two exceptions all of the pitch material is generated by the single player, something at times difficult to believe.
Errante and Beerman are distinguished artists with highly contrasting syles and approaches. Beerman typically plays his own original music; Errante music written by others, usually for him. Both use like equipment, but it is there that the similarity ends.
Beerman is featured here in three original works. Masks explores small pitch cells which are built into large structures by the use of multi-timbral effects. The contrasts between these cells as they are layered creates textural and contrapuntal interest. Moondance exhibits a rhythmic, episodic style that seems to imply color and movement. This is characteristic of much of Beerman's music, juxtaposing fragments Eastern sounding raga with jazz idioms. Wind Whispers, Sounds, and Shouts explores sequenced sounds added to the processed clarinet solo. A repeated pattern derived from the sequenced ostinato drives the piece. The imitative effects are layered so thickly that it makes picking out the clarinet line a challenge.
F. Gerard Errante is heard in four selections. Vladimir Ussachevsky's Four Studies for Clarinet and EVI is a classic duet for an acoustic instrument and an electronic partner. Here there are four short character pieces, delightfully witty and here played with wonderful grace and style.
Jane Brockman's Ningana is amone the best of the "live electronics" pieces. It is divided into two movements, the first using only electronic processing of the clarinet line, the second adding tape. Ningana is an audience pleaser, written in an accessible entertaining style.
The short Elegy for Gilda is Errantes own composition for clarinet using some extended technique and digital delay. It is an emotional work written in memory of the death of a long time companion pet. It is concise and well written.
Thea Musgraves Narcissus is a substantial programmatic work written originally for flute and digital delay, but transcribed for Errante by the composer. Closely following the Narcissus legend. each delay effect evokes a specific aspect of the story. This is made cleear to the performer by textural references in the score. Unfortunately this aspect of the piece is lost here for any listener unfamiliar with the piece. The words are not even listed in the liner notes, a serious omission, I think.
Musgrave's score has very specific performance instructions concerning the nature and type of each delay setting, all to portray the descriptive elements of the Narcissus scenario. Unfortunately, I do not think that all of these are re-created in this performance, and some of Musgraves brilliant sound characterization is lost.
All of the selections except the Ussachevsky were recorded at the Music Technology Studios at Bowling Green State University. Having heard both artists live many times, I must say that Errante's tone is much more consistent with his usual sound in live performance on the Ussachevsky than on any of the others. The difference in tone quality is quite narkedly perceptible. The quality of the engineering is wonderful, but the warmth of tone that I know exists is somehow absent on the BGSU engineering."
WINDPLAYER - Volume 9, Number 1
"Here we have a bright, uplifting program by two enterprising clarinetists who are clearly on the hunt for heautiful sounds, not the usual dour, ascetic avant-garde rhetoric. They revel in electronic possibilities as they avoid cliches, using electronics as an exotic language not a chromium-plated mimic of acoustic instruments.
Errante starts out on the right foot with Brockman's Ningana, a lovely, rippling piece in which the digital delay-minded Errante uses a Pitchrider on his horn to control a synthesizer. Errante also gets the lengthiest display piece in Musgrave's "Narcissus," a surprisingly literal rendering of the myth where the treated solo clarinet registers a query, then contemplation, then desperation, and finally, spent silence.
Beerman's participation is limited to his own compositions, the best being a concerto-like carousel of whirling, almost orchestral electronics called "Wind, Whispers, Sounds and Shouts." Don't let the whiff of academia in the liner credits put you off. There is whimsy, pomposity, drama, intergalactic space music and plenty of attractive lyrical solo work here, making this one of the most enjoyable avant-garde wind discs to come my way in a long time."
Living Music - Winter 1992 - Volume 10, Number 2 - by Joseph Koykkar
"Capstane Records has recently released a collection of seven works on CD which demonstrates the impact of music technology on music-making with the clarinet. Appropriately titled, Electronic Clarinet show cases the performance skills of two top-notch players, Burton Beerman and F. Gerard Errante.
Composer Jane Brockman is represented by a 9-minute composition, Ningana, scored for clarinet, tape and electronics. This impressive work features skillfully woven textures created by electronic timbres (primarily produced by synthesizers and digital delays) and the clarinet's traditional sound. Aesthetically, the composition displays Brockman's use of popular music idioms in combination with a more formal style. A tonal composition with a somewhat loose structure, Ningana is an accessible, entertaining production.
Burton Beerman performs his 1990 composition Masks which combines virtuosic writing for the clarinet and MIDI-triggering of sampled sounds. The composition vacillates between tightly structured sections where motives are explored (as in the opening's descending minor seventh Eb-F) and mare rhapsodic segments which have an improvisatory quality. Like Ningana, Masks is a tonal composition that is very approachable, but here the overuse of sampled vocal/choral sounds lessens its impact.
The late Vladimir Ussachevsky is represented on this CD by his Four Studies for Clarinet and EVI. These four miniatures consist of two duets and two solos which showcase the excellent technical skills of clarinetist F. Gerard Errante and EVI player Nyle Steiner.
Moondance, composed and performed by Burton Beerman, is a crafty display of the clarinetist's interaction via MIDI with numerous sound modules which represent a small, yet timbrally-varied ensemble. This work exhibits a hapsodic quality (like his composition Masks) while expressing hints of influences from the worlds of jazz and ethnic dance music.
F. Gerard Errante performs his own composition Elegy for Gilda, a brief evocative work which features expressive handling of the solo clarinet passages sans electronics in two extended sections. The use of digital delays and microtonal inflections in the composition's other segments are particularly effective.
Narcissus by Thea Musgrave is given an excellent performance on this CD by Errante. The composition is a moody, dramatic work which combines extended acoustic clarinet passages with sections utilizing a digital delay in a very subtle manner. However, at almost sixteen minutes in duration, Narcissus seems lengthy in relationship to the materials employed in the work.
The third compositinn by Beerman, Wind, Whispers, Sounds, and Shoutsis a technological tour de force exploiting a number of sound modules controlled by the clarinetist using a Pitch-to-MIDl converter and a MIDI sequencer (Unfortunately, the liner notes are very sketchy about the actual equipment setup). Of the seven works on the CD, this one best exemplifies an effective and elaborate integration of music technology with live performance.
All in all, Electric Clarinet can be recommended as a very interesting and enjoyable CD for anyone interested in hearing how acoustic instrumental performance has been extended by music technology during the last few years."
Fanfare - November/December, 1991 - Volume 15, Number 2 - by Peter Burwasser
"If there is any hope for contemporary music, it is because of albums like this. Here is a group of recent works that are neither self-consciously modern. in an academic, atonal way, nor condescendingly melodic in the tired. minimalist fashion. There may not be a single masterpiece on the whole CD, and yet this is all music that manages to retain an artistic integrity while at once being truly entertaining. That is no small feat.
Jane Brockmans Ningano is the weakest of the bunch, but it's not bad. I would have guessed that Brockman is a Hollywood composer, as her bio indicates. The piece conjures a generic theatricality with its rolling arpeggios, and, later, a pulsating synthesized rhythm track. This is basically sophisticated background music. The clarinet is merely amplified, and not electronically manipulated.
Burton Beerman's music is more intrinsically electronic. In Masks he uses a synthesized wordless chorus as a backdrop to echoing cascades of clarinet sound. Moondance draws on primal rhythmic impulses. featuring jazzy riffing against an electronic patter of drums. The last work on the program, Wind Whispers, Sounds, and Shouts, is a pleasing hodgepodge of expertly assembled effects, as the name suggests. Like the rest of Beerman's music, the work has a sophisticated likability. but skirts any real emotioaal substance.
The heart of the program is Thea Musgrave's Narcissus. originally composed for four flutes, and here transcribed by the composer for solo clarinet with computer generated delay. Musgrave has captured the essence of the Greek myth of self-love with haunting power. The digital delays that follow fluid solo plaints represent the rippling reflections of Narcissus in water. The soloist, F. Gerard Errante. explores this engaging impressionism with gorgeous legato playing and a subtle sense for the mythic duality.
Two short works round out this CD. The late Vladimir Ussachevsky, a pioneer of electronic music, contributes Four Studies for Clarinet and EVI, a sort of contemporruy set of clasically inspired bagatelles. F. Gerard Errantes brief Elegy for Gilda, written after the death of his German Shepherd, is rather strange, but true dog lovers, not to say new music lovers, will hear a responsive chord."
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