New Work For Clarinet And

Wind Ensemble Burns Brightly Joseph D’Auguste

New Jersey City University

Carline L. Guarini Dept. of Music, Dance, and Theatre

band is an arduous task. Putting together press releases, sending emails, making calls, and creating social media buzz are all in- tegral parts of the process; every last detail must be addressed before the composition of a piece even begins. Not many people can handle the heat of composing a piece at the highest artistic level, especially when combined with meeting strict deadlines and dealing with supporters, doubters, and everyone in between. Patrick J. Burns, however, did not freeze under the pressure. Instead, he produced a wonderful new work that shows both the tenderness and virtuosity of the clarinet and supporting ensemble.

C Composer Patrick J. Burns (b. 1969)

drew a total of twenty-five commissioning ensembles from every corner of the United States to jointly support his new work, Rhapsody for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble. The participating ensembles were told only that the new work would be between eight and ten minutes in length and would be completed in the fall of 2015. As to be ex- pected from the renowned composer, con- ductor, publishing company owner, and professor (New Jersey City University and Montclair State University), the fire has been burning brightly as the project has come full circle.

Joseph d’Auguste: Having com- posed and arranged pieces for virtu- ally every ensemble, why did you pick clarinet solo with wind ensem- ble for this commissioning project?

Patrick J. Burns: It’s an interesting thing that, as a composer, from early on


ommissioning, composing, publishing and performing a new work for clarinet and

you’re told that you should avoid writing for your own instrument since you know it best and you should explore other in- struments and media. So, I intentionally avoided writing for clarinet since it is my primary instrument. Naturally I wrote for it within the context of other ensembles (woodwind quintet, various chamber en- sembles, band, etc.), but never as a solo instrument until the RHAPSODY. I had a fine career as a young clarinetist and that career was developing nicely when a nerve problem in my right hand cut my playing career short. Having now established my- self as a composer, I wanted to write a piece that I would love to have played, if I still had the ability. Also, there seemed to be a great interest in generating a new work for clarinet and band, as indicated by the num- ber of participating ensembles in the con- sortium headed by NJCU, so it just seemed like the perfect time to write the piece.

JD: Rhapsody for Band was premiered

with you directing the wind ensemble at NJCU. What is it like to conduct your own music?

PJB: I’m more or less indifferent to-

ward my own music when I’m conduct- ing it. I spend the great majority of time working on other composers’ music, and I actually prefer that to conducting my own work. But I don’t dislike directing my own pieces, either. I regard each piece of music as its own separate entity - much in the same way that each individual person is unique and different from any other. So when I conduct, I give my music neither more nor less attention in the preparation process, apart from the normal consider- ation one must give to a particular piece which may require more rehearsal time to


polish for performance. If mine is the one which requires more, then so be it. But in general, as a conductor, I regard my music as valid as anyone else’s but not more so, by any means.

JD: Are there any composers that in- fluenced your compositional style?

PJB: Oh yes, very many. I’m hesitant to mention them here because I know I will leave many out and I also may invite others to hear influences which may or may not be there. I will say that musical form is more important than harmonic vocabulary and overall style in relating a piece to an audience. If the form makes sense - that is to say, if the music unfolds in a way that allows the listener to follow all of the intricacies of a piece as they hap- pen one after another - then the music will resonate with the listener. There are many great composers whose formal struc- tures invite and lead the listener through pieces, but a few who impress me greatly are Ravel, Walton, Respighi and Rach- maninoff. Within the scope of the wind band, the elegance and beauty of Alfred Reed’s music has been a great influence. Reed was particularly good at giving life to the inner voices in a musical texture, a style trait of his that I first became aware of in high school. I’m sure that this technique alone has had a great effect on my writing.

JD: One vein that runs through your compositions is a great sense of color and emotion, as well as mechanical rhyth- mic gestures. Why do you think that is?

PJB: I don’t write music which can

easily be broken, as I like to say. In oth- er words, I want musicians who play my

MAY 2017

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