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
A contradiction lies at the heart of Right now, in a second, Stefanie Lubkowski's duet for bass clarinet and marimba. "The piece," says marimbist Matt Sharrock, "gives you a sensation of, 'Let's do this right now ... but let's wait.' I feel like that's oddly poignant right now in our Zoom culture." Sharrock is one half of Boston-based duo Transient Canvas, alongside bass clarinetist Amy Advocat. The duo's third album, released in October, takes its title from Lubkowski's piece.
So far for Advocat and Sharrock, the pandemic period has brought more doing than waiting: their current season includes twenty-five concerts, mostly online, with work on a fourth album also underway. Their growing body of recordings constitutes an attempt to document the eighty-five pieces (and counting) the duo has commissioned in ten years' existence.
Sharrock believes Right now particularly "represents what it's like to go to a Transient Canvas concert." Seven eclectic commissions ("we never give an aesthetic agenda," says Advocat) explore multifarious expressive worlds and color palettes, beginning with the clarinet multiphonics— loud and quiet—of Barbara White's Fool Me Once. In Jonathan Bailey Holland's Rebounds, repeated-note motifs evoke the dissipating energy of bouncing balls—while also venturing into more elusive emotional territory, which, as the title suggests, might evoke romantic renewal.
\very/ specifically vague shifts to linguistic terrain, as Singaporean composer Emily Koh creates a musical analogue to Singlish, Singapore's English-based creole. The title, describing Singlish's characteristic roundabout quality, is borrowed from a Reddit forum. Sharrock calls Clifton Ingram's complex Cold column, calving "probably the deepest part of the album." Cold column's structure is inspired by both Wenceslas Hollar's 17th-century etching, "Landscape Shaped Like A Face," and the Bicameral Mind Theory, which says that the brain's functions were once divided among the two hemispheres.
Like a brain, Ingram's piece is divided into two "hemispheres," within which lies the music's core subject matter: the 2008 calving—or breaking apart—of Greenland's Jakobshavn glacier. In hemisphere 1, Sharrock plays high, icy sounds while Advocat cracks below; in hemisphere 11, registers flip. At its deepest level, Cold column emphasizes the tragedy of climate change: Ingram closes by quoting a medieval lament that Advocat says "has the emotive quality of someone singing with their voice breaking, because I'm actually doing that with my vocal chords as I play." Crystal Pascucci's resonance imaging mimics the sounds of an MRI. Pascucci, a longtime lupus patient, also portrays the twin claustrophobias induced by MRIs and long-term illness. 'Audiences come up to us," confirms Advocat, "and tell us it brought back memories of being in an MRI." The concert concludes with Keith Kirchoff's obsessive Monochrome, an exercise in inexorable rhythm.
— Sasha Margolis, 8.20.2021
Transient Canvas, a Boston-based duo that consists of bass clarinetist Amy Advocat and marimbist Matt Sharrock, delivers a superb display of thought-provoking works on their latest album, Right Now, In A Second.
The first track on the album, Fool Me Once, is a delightfully fun piece that showcases a driving rhythm and incredible control between the two artists. The next track, Rebounds, is written in a manner similar to short piano character pieces of the Romantic Era with the musicians playing off of each other in an almost conversational manner. The third track, \very/ specifically vague, is described in the liner notes as “an observation describing the usage of Singlish in an r/Singapore discussion on Reddit.” Although the majority of the piece consists of trills and tremolos, Advocat’s superb playing creates the most musical and exciting trills/tremolos that I have heard. The fifth track, resonance imaging, is a powerful piece that reflects on the composer, Crystal Pascucci, having time spent getting an MRI test. The piece begins with lots of percussive sounds, not only from Sharrock, but also from Advocat producing some really impressive slap tonguing. Multiphonics also add to the eerie sounds that represent the MRI machine. The next track shares the title of the album, Right Now, In A Second. This piece is an exploratory work in various sounds that keeps the listeners enthralled. The album ends with Monochrome. While much of the album is a calm soundscape, this piece is another driving, almost minimalistic work.
From start to finish this album is remarkable and incredibly creative, both in compositions and in performance. Amy Advocat played microtones, multiphonics, and other techniques on the bass clarinet with such ease and perfection. A must-have for those interested in new music.
— Jeremy Wohletz, 8.14.2021
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
Transient Canvas is the name of an unusual, perhaps even unique, duo consisting of bass clarinetist Amy Advocat and marimbist Matt Sharrock. They specialize in new music and have commissioned over 80 works. Although based in Boston, they perform throughout the United States.
This is not a disc for listeners with traditional tastes. The music is all recent, composed between 2014 and 2017, and quite Modernist in style. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of sound worlds to be found in seven works scored for just these two instruments. This variety held my interest through most of the disc, but I did run out of steam with the last piece—more about that later.
Fool Me Once by Barbara White is inspired by the experience of going through the fun house at an amusement park, its repetitions and circular shapes reflecting the inability to find the way out. The interplay between bass clarinet and marimba is complex and intense. Jonathan Bailey Holland's Rebounds is the shortest piece on the program, referring back, as annotator Matt Sharrock points out, to character pieces for piano that were so popular with Romantic composers like Schumann and Liszt. The piece covers a wide range of colors in its four-and-a-half-minute duration. After a virtuosic beginning it fades away to a quiet, delicate conclusion.
\very/specifically vague is a musical take on the usage of Singlish (English as spoken by a Singapore native), inspired by a discussion of Singlish on Reddit. The program notes by the Singapore-born composer Emily Koh, who is now living in Atlanta, gives a description of Singlish that also applies to the music. "In the work, the two protagonists 'speak' in a roundabout, specifically-vague way similar to that in Singlish." Indeed, the music starts and stops, appearing to find a direction but then changing tack. To my ears the work displays a very engaging wit.
Clifton Ingram's Cold column, calving is inspired by, as its composer says, "two seemingly unrelated narratives: the Jakobshavn Glacier calving event of 2008 ... and Julian Jaynes's bicameral mind (a theory that describes the advent of conscious thought as a gradual shift of one-directional flow of information from the right to left hemisphere of the brain in a two-way conversation)." While I admit to not easily making the connection between the music and its sources, listening to it purely as music without a context was enjoyable because of its coloristic contrasts. At first the brilliance of the marimba's upper register is contrasted against the dark low register of the bass clarinet, but by the end the instruments have shifted registers and roles.
Crystal Pascucci's resonance imaging is described by the composer as follows: "Timbres and rhythms within the piece mimic those heard while undergoing an MRI test." Pascucci was diagnosed with lupus and has had a great deal of experience with MRI machines and the claustrophobia they can bring on. As with much of the program, the sound world of this piece is very different from everything that has gone before, truly mimicking the sounds and rhythmic patterns that one experiences while undergoing an MRI. Pascucci's ingenuity made me smile, but resonance imaging also has really lovely moments of delicacy.
Right now, in a second is described by composer Stefanie Lubkowski in a terse program note: "An exploration of the tension between the moment-to-moment sensuality of sound and the forward drive of rhythm, melody, and harmony." The music presents dramatic differences of color and strong contrasts between lyricism and Pointillism. There is a dramatic interplay between the two instruments and a theatrical sense of tension and release.
Monochrome by Keith Kirchoff is one of two works for which the program notes were written by Matt Sharrock instead of the composer. In its entirety his note reads as follows: "Monochrome is relentlessly dedicated to a single idea." That idea, expressed as a repetitive rhythmic pattern, was not enough to sustain the work's 7:49 duration. Constant repetition wore out its welcome for me long before Monochrome was over.
Throughout, the performances are what you would expect from two musicians passionate about their mission. Everything is played with intensity as well as great skill, and the recorded sound is gratifyingly clear and warm.
— Henry Fogel, 8.31.2021
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