Two for Chihuly

Two for Chihuly

Two for Chihuly

for Bb clarinet and Bb bass clarinet

Program Notes

Two for Chihuly is a set of two pieces inspired by the work of American glass artist Dale Chihuly.  He is certainly the best-known glass artist in the world, and quite possibly the most famous glass artist ever.  I became fascinated with his work some 25+ years ago.  He was getting some attention then, but had not yet become the international phenomenon he is now.  While you could argue that he is a bit overexposed and that he overshadows other very talented artists, still, every time I see his work it just draws me in anew.

He is known for his curvilinear, organic shapes (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a right angle in any of his pieces, and there are very few even remotely straight lines) and huge, vivid color palette.  He works in all sizes from objects you could hold in your hand to massive public installations consisting of hundreds of individual pieces.  Many of his works are grouped by general shape into series (baskets, ikebana, cylinders, macchia…).  The first movement is inspired by such a series, and the second by a unique, stand-alone piece.

Seaforms are fanciful pieces loosely inspired by seashells, as well as other marine animals and plants.  To quote from an exhibition description: they “conjure up underwater life, but do not imitate it.”  Several individual pieces are often combined to make a larger whole.  They were one of his earlier series and still one of the best-known and popular.  I have tried to imitate the constantly curving, asymmetrical surfaces in the flexible rhythms of much of the movement.

Blue Neon Tumbleweed is housed in the Chihuly Collection of the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida.  It is exactly what you might think: very, very blue and bursting with light and energy.  It doesn’t move, but as someone who grew up around tumbleweeds, I could easily imagine it rolling along the plains, blown here and there unpredictably by the constantly shifting Texas Panhandle winds.  I have tried to capture that unpredictability with appropriately swirling motives, sudden changes of dynamics and register, and a momentum that lets up only occasionally and briefly.

Two for Chihuly was written at the request of Matthew Nelson and Richard Nunemaker.  They are both great friends to living composers, myself definitely included.  I have had the great pleasure of having several pieces commissioned, performed and recorded by them and hope to get to write more for them.

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