Boston based Transient Canvas (Amy Advocat, bass clarinet; Matt Sharrock, marimba) releases their newest recording documenting their extensive work commissioning new works for their instrumentation. On Right now, in a second, the duo presents premiere recordings of music by Barbara White, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Emily Koh, Clifton Ingram, Crystal Pascucci, Stefanie Lubkowski, and Keith Kirchoff.
|01||Fool Me Once|
Fool Me Once
|03||\very/ specifically vague|
\very/ specifically vague
|04||Cold column, calving|
Cold column, calving
|06||Right now, in a second|
Right now, in a second
Boston based bass clarinet and marimba duo Transient Canvas (Amy Advocat and Matt Sharrock) release their third album with New Focus, continuing to document their tireless commissioning project for their instrumentation. The music on this collection revels in contrasts — between rhythmic dynamism and free meter, bombastic extroversion and delicate inward moments, conventional and extended technique.
Opening the recording is Barbara White’s Fool Me Once, a work divided into two sections, first rhythmic and coordinated and second atmospheric and textural. A syncopated figure is heard in unison to begin the piece, before it is gradually deconstructed, fragmenting its components into both parts. After moving through a slower tempo, the texture lands in a free, vigorous climax marked by raw multiphonics and squeals in the clarinet and virtuosic scalar passages in marimba. Short outbursts of this material become more spaced out, as the work slowly turns toward music that hints at White’s interest in meditative solo Japanese bamboo flute repertoire. The piece closes with a quiet, breathy clarinet multiphonic, hearkening back to the energetic opening heard now filtered through a reflective hue.
Jonathan Bailey Holland's work Rebounds is a contemporary answer to the short character pieces popular in the romantic piano repertoire. He establishes insistent repeated notes as a key motive from the beginning, sounding them in both instruments in alternation, in deceleration, and different tempi. This idea grows into a pulsating section where marimba chords bloom, eventually supporting a lyrical clarinet melody. Bailey Holland compresses the range of material back to the repeated note motive to close the piece with a gentle hocketed figure between the two instruments.Read More
Singlish (a blend of Singaporean slang and English) is the jumping off point for Emily Koh’s \very/ specifically vague. Koh’s writing for the bass clarinet and marimba is meant to evoke the stylized, “roundabout” manner of speaking characteristic of a shorthand one might find on internet chat rooms. The clarinet writing in the opening solo passage is ornamental, relying heavily on trills, elisions of quick grace note figures, and elastic gestures. The marimba often mimics these figures, adding accented exclamations to support the clarinet. Ultimately, the vernacular “conversation” the two instruments are having dissolves, leaving the clarinet alone again to close the piece much as it began.
In his Cold column, calving, Clifton Ingram merges two narratives in abstract musical terms. The first is the Jakobshavn Glacier calving in 2008, a dramatic rupture of a massive wall of ice from the Greenland ice sheet. The opening section, glacier’s edge (hemisphere I), depicts this slow process of breaking away; sounds that evoke the dripping of water from melting ice, creaking and popping sounds, and the performers’ pages falling to the ground symbolize the range of small sounds that together add up to a cataclysmic result. The second section also introduces Ingram’s second narrative, an exploration of the bicameral mind. The corpus callosum in the brain is the mediator between the two hemispheres of the brain; in Ingram’s depiction, haunting swells track the ethereal firing of synapses and exchange of information. The final section is a shrouded, plaintive setting of a medieval lament, “Go! heart, hurt with adversity!”
In resonance imaging, Crystal Pascucci shapes a musical portrait of experiences she has had in MRI machines while undergoing tests. The mechanistic glissando figure we hear in the marimba to open the piece conjures the processing of the testing machine; pops and bleeps in both instruments evoke the calibrations of a computer. Contrasting these sounds of the testing room are inner expressions of claustrophobia and the ongoing struggle with illness, at times somber and others desperate and charged.
Stefanie Lubkowski’s title track is “an exploration of the tension between the moment-to-moment sensuality of sound and the forward drive of rhythm, melody, and harmony.” Bowed marimba and a searching bass clarinet melody open the piece, with subtle staccato punctuations in the clarinet and a cameo from a snare drum. The percolating texture grows into a climactic section featuring fierce multiphonics in the clarinet and accented bursts on the drum. After this explosion of energy, the work returns to the calm consideration of sustained sounds and timbres for its close.
Keith Kirchoff writes that his Monochrome is “relentlessly dedicated to a single idea.” Accented chords in the marimba trigger short clarinet motives, at first one and two note gestures, gradually expanding to longer collections as the register of goal notes expands upwards. Throughout Kirchoff adjusts the catalyzing relationship; a transitional section builds a sotto voce texture around the prevailing pulse implied by a quasi-bass line played by the clarinet. The work’s greatest contrast comes midway through, when delicate marimba rolls underscore a deliberative clarinet melody.
Transient Canvas’ commissioning work consistently elevates the craft and expression of excellent composers in the United States today, regardless of their promotional profile. As performers, they enliven the local details of each score with color and delicacy while placing them in the context of an elegantly shaped larger structure. Right now, in a second is an excellent addition to the evolving discography chronicling their mission.
– Dan Lippel
Produced by: Stefanie Lubkowski, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Clifton Ingram, Peter Van Zandt Lane, Keith Kirchoff, Amy Advocat, and Matt Sharrock
Engineer & Mastering: Joel Gordon
Tracks 1-6 recorded December 20-22, 2019 at Blue Jay Studios in Carlisle, MA
Track 7 recorded on April 9, 2016 at Dancz Center for New Music in Athens, GA
Design: Marc Wolf, marcjwolf.com
Cover Art: Vicki Leona
This album was recorded with generous support from The Alice M. Ditson Fund
Boston-based contemporary duo Transient Canvas is on a mission to revolutionize the modern concert experience. Since 2011, their innovative performances have been praised as “superb” by the Boston Globe and “disarming” by Cleveland Classical, with the San Francisco Chronicle lauding “the versatile imagination they both display and inspire in others.” Bass clarinetist Amy Advocat and marimbist Matt Sharrock relish the creative potential of working with living composers, having amassed a varied repertoire of over 80 commissioned works in addition to working with hundreds of student composers from all over the world. They maintain an active touring schedule with recent performances at the Charlotte New Music Festival, Red Note Festival, Music on the Edge, Ethos New Music Society, People Inside Electronics, Music at the Forefront, and New Music Gathering, among others. They have two albums, Sift and Wired, both released on New Focus Recordings. Transient Canvas proudly endorses Henri Selmer Paris, Conn-Selmer, and Marimba One.http://www.transientcanvas.com/
The duo Transient Canvas (bass clarinetist Amy Advocat and marimbist Matt Sharrock) has forged ahead in its advocacy for this no-longer-so-exotic instrumental combination. Right now, in a second (New Focus Recordings) is their newest assemblage of fresh compositions, and it demonstrates the expanse that the pairing of these instruments can afford imaginative composers. The inventive compositions range from the austerely lyrical title track, by Stefanie Lubkowski, to the dancing, stop-start motion of Emily Koh’s \very/ specifically vague.
— David Weininger, 12.17.2020
The ephemeral nature of sound is exquisitely captured in the poetry of this new music performed by bass clarinettist Amy Advocat and Matt Sharrock, a percussion colourist heard here on marimba. Experimental music, made with incongruous instrumental pairings, often begs the question: Can sound be toyed with if only to fill the heart and mind with a sense of wonder? Advocat and Sharrock answer in the affirmative, and emphatically at that.
The bass clarinet – among the whole family of single-reed woodwinds – is probably the most diabolically difficult to master. Advocat makes light work of it all with her extraordinary virtuosity, her application of soft dynamics to create atmospheric effect, and by this I don’t mean such effects that suggest the lugubrious (something she does on Jonathan Bailey Holland’s Rebounds), but also something resembling a beautiful gravitas (which is evoked on resonance imaging by Crystal Pascucci).
Sharrock’s radiant marimba is the perfect foil for the rumblings of the bass clarinet. His crystalline sculpting of notes informs Stefanie Lubowski’s composition Right now, in a second. Meanwhile he turns his instrument into a kind of living, breathing being, as with glancing blows of mallets on wood he conjures a close dance with the bass clarinettist.
The masterful centrepiece is Clifton Ingram’s Cold column, calving. This music seems to bow in reverence to the earth’s ancient permafrost. As it unfolds, you get a sense of how expressively the musicians tease out the geographical metaphor of this piece with profound grandeur.
— Raul de Gama, 12.15.2020
Transient Canvas, the duo of bass clarinetist Amy Advocat and marimbist Matt Sharrock, has over the years built a repertoire for their unique combination of instruments by commissioning work by contemporary composers. Their third release, Right now, in a second, continues this practice with premiere recordings of seven compositions by seven composers, all written between 2014 and 2017. Taken together, these pieces demonstrate the multidimensional, complementary relationships made possible by Transient Canvas’ seemingly austere, but in fact sonically rich, instrumentation.
To start at the end, the final track, Keith Kirchoff’s Monochrome, is a minimalist-like work built up of repeated figures, pulsing rhythms and interlocking accents that, ironically in light of its title, highlight the lush and anything-but-monochromatic color spectrum of the two instruments, particularly of the marimba. The title track, by Stefanie Lubkowski, contrasts liminal dynamics and pensive melodies for bass clarinet with episodes of pixillated rhythmic counterpoint. The kernel of Jonathan Bailey Holland’s Rebounds is a rhythmically assertive, single note passed between bass clarinet and marimba; serving first as an independent theme, the note gradually anchors a series of brief melodic flights moving away from and back toward it. Barbara White’s Fool Me Once, which opens the set, begins with rapid, syncopated lines for both Advocat and Sharrock which unravel into quiet, almost tentative passages with spaces between. The collection also includes the haltingly conversational \very/ specifically vague by Emily Koh; Clifton Ingram’s multipart Cold Column Calving; and Crystal Paccuci’s emotionally charged resonance imaging. Advocat and Sharrock’s performances on all seven works maintain the high technical standards and immediacy of presence that characterize their previous two albums.
— Daniel Barbiero, 10.25.2020
What is the likelihood that a bass clarinet and marimba duo would even exist, let alone commission over sixty new compositions for such an unorthodox pairing? Transient Canvas – bass clarinetist Amy Advocat and marimba player Matt Sharrock – cover all the bases in the lows and the highs, and have built an often absolutely fascinating body of work. For anyone who feels daunted or overwhelmed by the sheer effort it’s going to take for us to end the lockdown, this group’s very existence is an inspiration: if they can succeed, so can we. The irrepressible duo’s latest album Right Now, in a Second is streaming at Bandcamp.
As is typical for this pair, there’s a lot going on here: this is new classical music as entertainment. They open with Barbara White’s Fool Me Once, beginning with a series of variations on a catchy, circling bass clarinet riff, Advocat up the scale just a little below the marimba. If the squall and then the hazy atmospherics afterward aren’t improvised, White’s done a great job imitating it. Looming ambience, a playful game of knuckles and a more wistful conversation ensue, going out with a wry whisper. Likewise, Jonathan Bailey Holland’s Rebounds begins with good-natured call-and-response and then calms, the amusement factor growing more subtle.
Emily Koh’s \Very/ Specifically Vague is inspired by from Singaporean English patois, Advocat’s precise trills and the occasional upward flare contrasting with Sharrock’s anchoring accents and ripples. Clifton Ingram’s triptych Cold Column, Calving draws on the 2008 Jakobshavn Glacier calving incident where a chunk of ice the size of lower Manhattan broke off into the Atlantic. The composer also seeks to explore the development (some would say devolution) of bicameral brain hemispheres. Again, a lot of call-and-response is involved, in a spare, spritely, noirish, Bernard Herrmann-ish sense. Told you there was a lot going on here!
Resonance Imaging, by Crystal Pascucci reflects the composer’s many angst-filled experiences inside a MRI tube, both via a sardonic evocation of mechanical blips and buzzes, and Advocat’s resolute spirals and sheets of sound as Sharrock edges toward more lyrical territory. A MRI as edge-of-your seat carnival ride, who knew?
The album’s title track, by Stefanie Lubkowski is a neat interweave of alternately sustained and rhythmic riffs for the duo to negotiate. They wind up the record with the jaunty, lilting, minimalist variations of Keith Kirchoff’s Monochrome.
— delarue, 12.28.2020
A modern clarinet/percussion duo that actively commissions new works and premieres them, they seem to favor works that feel influenced by 50s Bernstein with their flow moving forward from there. This program is full of progressive hot spots showing just how much white space two players can fill in quite capably. Tasty stuff that meets you half way in from left field.
— Chris Spector, 9.26.2020