Trio for Violin, Clarinet and Marimba (2008)
I have always tried to blend the sound of instruments from different families. In Trio for Violin, Clarinet and Marimba, the clarinet is really a mediator that softens the sound of a violin, and sustains the decay of a marimba. I have chosen the clarinet in A because of the slight darker color than the Bb clarinet in addition to the lower possible notes. This piece also calls for a bass clarinet for its low rumbling bass that fits particularly well with the low notes in marimba, and contrasts brilliantly with violin harmonics. With this combination of instruments, the music can span over five octaves with no limitation on legato, staccato, wide leaps or even frequent meter changes.
Therefore, in addition to tone color, rhythm is my main focus for the first movement. There are many places throughout, where one instrument plays an ostinato in compound duple time, while the other instruments are playing in simple triple time. While the players have to maintain the pulse of the eighth notes, they must not be confused by the “tripletized” feeling of coming from a compound duple meter to a simple triple meter. The exchange of going back and forth from two eighth notes groups to three eighth notes groups is prominent throughout the entire composition. There are moments when one meter takes over our attention, but eventually, they all come together in a meter that compresses both groups in a total of five eighth notes.
Now, notation is a problem. I have struggled to provide a score that is easiest to read without confusing the players. Instead of beaming everything in compound meters, I purposefully grouped them differently in their respective meters (without changing the time signature, however). If one sees three quarter notes in a compound duple meter, one immediately knows that he/she carries the rhythmic motive (and melodic motive due to the ascending fourths). This is also a way to avoid excessive ties.
The second movement is an interlude or perhaps a reflective moment. Rhythm becomes static with the marimba playing parallel quartal harmonies throughout. Exchanging thematic materials back and forth between the violin and the clarinet is indeed treating the two instruments as one with the advantages of both. The second movement flows like there will be no end.
In an attempt to capture the essence of the first movement and conclude what is left behind from the second, the third movement brings back the overall idea of rhythmic ambiguity from the first movement. I have incorporated various fugal sections with subjects that avoid any rhythmic cadence. The seemingly simple but ongoing quarter and eight notes obscure any sense of strong or weak beats, which in effect eliminate feelings of particular time signatures, and ultimately move the music forwards. After the fugal sections, the clarinet announces a reminiscence of the first movement in this however slower tempo; but soon after, a metric modulation is employed, where the main theme of the first movement is heard again in the original tempo, before all three instruments eventually burst into a furious end.
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