For John Eaton

For John Eaton

For John Eaton

three versions: for bass flute and bass clarinet, for two bass clarinets, and for Bb clarinet and bass clarinet

Program Notes

John Eaton (1935-2015) was my principal composition teacher and mentor. He and his wife Nelda Nelson remained good friends with me and my wife Rebecca long after graduation. We went for John’s premieres and other performances whenever we could, and shared more wonderful meals (and glasses of wine) than I could count. Besides being a great composer, he was a warm and caring human being, a deeply learned and cultured man with a broad depth of knowledge in many fields, and a true bon vivant, always fun to be around. We were deeply saddened by his death in December of 2015, but have many wonderful memories and continue our friendship with Nelda.

Sadly, in the last few years several people who were both friends and colleagues have passed away. As composers are wont to do, I have written memorial pieces in their honor. The pieces are very different from each other, but several of them, including this one, share a common melodic motive.

I chose this rather unusual instrumentation because John wrote so beautifully for both of these instruments, especially but not exclusively in the “pocket operas” that occupied much of his time in the last couple of decades of his life. I don’t know if he actually had a favorite instrument, but clearly he had a special fondness for these two. Colleagues suggested arranging it for the other instrumentations mentioned.

My compositional style and John’s could not be more different (one of the great things about his teaching was that he always worked to help his students find their own voices and had no interest in imposing any particular style, certainly not his own). I did borrow a couple of fragments from a hymn-like tune in John’s Mass for solo voices and chamber ensemble, but otherwise have made no effort to imitate John’s unique vision.

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