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Howl (2014)

for clarinet and string quartet

Listen to excerpts:

Howl, I. - excerpt
Howl, II. - excerpt
Howl, III. - excerpt

CD Released on June 1, 2016

Charles Neidich, clarinet and the Pro Arte Quartet:  

David Perry, violin; Suzanne Beia, violin

Sally Chisholm, viola; Parry Karp, cello

Instrumentation: clarinet/bass clarinet and string quartet


I.  Howl - Part I

II.  Litany

III.  Howl -- Part II

Duration:  25 minutes

World Premiere: Premiered by Charles Neidich, clarinet, and the Pro Arte String Quartet, on September 26, 2014, Madison, WI.

Program Notes:

Howl was written for Charles Neidich and the Pro Arte String Quartet. The work is in three movements and was inspired by the poem of Allen Ginsberg. I had known about Ginsberg’s poem for a long time but it wasn't until after I had started composing the piece that I read it thoroughly and saw some similarities in the conception and form. It's less about the content and more about the long lines Ginsberg creates. At the beginning of my piece, the clarinet is basically playing long tones, creating a long line while the strings present the rhythmically pulsating harmonic underpinning. Ginsberg poem has been called a "litany of praise" and the second movement becomes a litany, much like a series of prayers in a liturgy, with the strings creating chant-like lines (though there are no direct Gregorian chant quotes like I've used in other works) while the clarinet becomes the "Vox Dei", the voice of God, hovering mysteriously over everything. The third movement returns to the musical materials from the first movement, but now the bass clarinet takes on the virtuosic role. Ginsberg's poem has also been described thus: "His disconnected phrases can accumulate as narrative shrieks or, at other moments, can build as a litany of praise." I've explained the litany, but there are also buildups to shrieking moments in my piece as well as a "howl" motive - a low chord slurred up to an immediate high cluster, all played very forcefully. There's also something very urban about parts of the poem (allusions to cities and urban environments) and to me, there's an urban quality in my first and third movements. There are also many religious allusions (Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus, and the last words of Christ on the cross) so the second movement takes its starting point from this.

-- Pierre Jalbert

© 2016 Pierre Jalbert, Howl                                                                                                                                                   Photo:  Julia Jalbert

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