Five Strong Winds

Five Strong Winds

Five Strong Winds

for Bb clarinet and piano

Program Notes

Five Strong Winds was written at the request of my colleague and friend at the University of Louisville, Matthew Nelson. It was inspired by a piece my wife and I saw at the Contemporary Art Museum in Montréal by Québécois artist Raymond Gervais, called Vents (Winds). The unusual display consisted of 25 CD cases, into which were inserted leaflets bearing inscriptions, each consisting of the name of a wind from some locale in the world, and a brief description of the wind. I took pictures of them, thinking this might serve as the starting point for a composition someday. I have used five of them as the specific inspirations for the movements of this work.

I must confess I chose these titles in particular at least in part because of their exoticism (who could resist “Xlokk?”) and associations with faraway places. I was also looking for a certain amount of variety, both geographic and in the nature of the winds themselves.

Originally I was going to use the artist’s title, but in English the word “vents” has a different (although related) meaning that could be misleading, and it didn’t strike me as very appealing for a piece of music. Since I was using a piece of Canadian art for my inspiration, the title references one of the best-known Canadian popular songs, Four Strong Winds, by Ian Tyson. The music does not refer to the song, in content or style, however, although it is among my favorites.

The movements are:

  1. Xlokk, a cold dry wind in Malbec
  2. Mbatis, a light evening southern breeze in Greece
  3. Siffanto, a breathtaking hot wind in the “heel” of Italy
  4. Wabun, an Eastern wind that brings the dawn in Algonquin territory
  5. Chinook, a burning Montana wind

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