A wilderness of mirrors : for solo E flat clarinet and ensemble
by Elliott Gyger (1996)
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A wilderness of mirrors takes its title from a line in T.S.Eliot's poem Gerontion. My reading of the phrase, however, is not necessarily the same as that of Eliot's "old man in a dry month". My work explores the idea that in the wilderness one is brought face to face with oneself, as the ultimate test of strength and courage.
The protagonist, a solo E flat clarinet, begins the piece alone, and is subsequently confronted with the indifference and hostility of the rest of the ensemble. In the course of the piece, however, the gulf between the two gradually closes, moving through cooperation to claustrophobia as it becomes clear that the ensemble's music is actually the same as the clarinet's music. This is realized structurally through a single huge canon: the various sections of the ensemble imitate the clarinet line in rhythmic diminution, starting between three and six minutes behind the soloist and gradually catching up over the length of the whole work. The emergence from the ensemble of a second E flat clarinet - the literal mirror of the soloist - tips the final phase of the music over into violence and hysteria.
Instrumentation: Solo E flat clarinet, alto flute in G (also medium woodblack), cor anglais in F, bass clarinet in B flat (also 2nd E flat clarinet), bassoon, horn in F, trumpet in C, bass trombone (also small woodblock), celesta (also large tom-tom), percussion (1 player), 2 violins (2nd also large woodblock), viola, cello, double bass.
Duration: 20 min.
Written for: Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne
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