Op. 6 – Pseudonym

Clarinet Solo

  1. Legato
  2. Staccato

This brief work brings together two compositional techniques which have played a great role in 20th century composition, but have had little affect on my own work, namely the 12-tone system and chance operations. The compositional decisions I made in composing this made me feel like I was taking on an alternative identity, thus the title.

My first idea was to write a piece in which all 48 permutations of the row would appear once and only once, and the amount of time necessary to state all 48 forms would determine the dimensions of the piece. In the event, I felt I had said all that needed to be said long before that point was reached. The chance operations were involved in choosing the row and the order of appearance of the permutations. I began with a deck of cards from which the kings had been removed. I assigned a note value to each card from ace to queen, and shuffling the cards in one suit, I came up with several tone rows, the most appealing of which I chose as the basis of the composition. The four suits were made to represent prime form, retrograde, inversion and retrograde inversion of the row, so that when the whole deck was shuffled I could determine the sequence of 48 row forms. I thus had almost no compositional control over the sequence of pitces in this work.

The composition conisisted of molding the melodic shapes created by the pre-determined note sequence. The first movement is a perpetual motion, interrupted only as needed for breaths, exploring in turn the middle, high, and low registers of the instrument. The second movement finds counterpoint in several simultaneous ascending lines, increasing in rhythmic density to a furious climax.

Pseudonym is an extremely difficult work which will tax the fingers of the most accomplished virtuoso.