William O. Smith & Jesse Canterbury | collage/decollage

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Avant Garde: Classical Avant-Garde Jazz: Avant-Garde Jazz Moods: Type: Experimental
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by William O. Smith & Jesse Canterbury

Music for two, three and four clarinets, performed by 2 players. This disc continues Smith's exploration of unusual clarinet sonorities and musical spaces with an ably adventurous musical partner.
Genre: Avant Garde: Classical Avant-Garde
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Essay: Solo One
4:18 album only
2. Essay: Interlude
2:16 album only
3. Essay: Solo Two
3:17 album only
4. Essay: Postlude
1:32 album only
5. Two By Four
6:31 album only
6. Something Sweet, Something Tender
3:43 album only
7. Variants For Two Clarinets: Fluttering
1:47 album only
8. Variants For Two Clarinets: Expressive
1:39 album only
9. Variants For Two Clarinets: Brash
1:25 album only
10. Variants For Two Clarinets: Dramatic
1:22 album only
11. Variants For Two Clarinets: Slowly Floating
1:52 album only
12. Variants For Two Clarinets: Angry
1:04 album only
13. Variants For Two Clarinets: Urgent
1:13 album only
14. Polestar
6:21 album only
15. Quartet For Two Double Clarinets: Bold
2:36 album only
16. Quartet For Two Double Clarinets: Dramatic
3:13 album only
17. Quartet For Two Double Clarinets: Intense
1:17 album only


Album Notes
"It was 1967 at BMI in New York when I first met William O. “Bill” Smith; it was nearly 35 years later when I met Jesse Canterbury in Seattle. Somehow I was a catalyst for Jesse and William O. to meet in 2000 but I didn’t know it at the time. Having since heard them perform together from time to time it is exciting to welcome their first CD. All the way through we are treated to fantastic sonic mixes, sonorities, and beautifully handled unisons. Primarily featuring Bill’s compositions, there are a couple of neat contrasts provided by Tom Baker and François Houle along with a touching arrangement by Jesse of an Eric Dolphy tune. As we take this journey, guided by concise, detailed, and helpful notes, appreciate the deep resultant tones, the marvelous intonation and ensemble, and sounds so astonishing that is hard to believe they are coming out of the various permutations of clarinets. And don’t bother listening for the non-existent electronic alterations or enhancements..."

Stuart Dempster, Seattle, August 2007


The works on this recording feature clarinets played in many different configurations: two clarinets played simultaneously; two half-clarinets (upper or lower joint with mouthpiece inserted) played simultaneously; one half-clarinet (unaltered, muted, or lengthened with Harmon mutes, hands, or PVC pipe); one whole clarinet muted with a small cork in the bell; one whole clarinet played by blowing across the barrel, without the mouthpiece, so that a flute sound is produced; tapping or striking various parts of the clarinet. Other more traditional extended techniques used include microtones, circular breathing, and multiphonics of various types and qualities. No overdubbing was used in producing this recording.



[1-4] Essay (1995), by William O. Smith (b. 1926)

The first version of Essay was a short piece exploring echo effects between one clarinetist offstage and one onstage (rendered in this recording by Jesse playing far away from the microphone). Later I decided to expand it to include an interlude featuring multiphonics and strong contrasts. These first two movements lead to a jazz section (Solo Two), followed by a slow Postlude in which each performer plays double clarinet (two clarinets played simultaneously). Essay is dedicated to my friends F. Gerard Errante and Ian Mitchell.

[5] Two by Four (2005), by Tom Baker (b. 1965)

Two by Four is a work for two clarinetists, each of whom plays two clarinets simultaneously. The piece explores three musical spaces: the opening calls exclusively for multiphonics in both parts; the middle section requires one player to improvise patterns while circular breathing, creating a murmur of sound with which the second player interacts; finally the chorale-like third section features all four clarinets. The improvised parts of the middle section are modeled after sounds pioneered on the saxophone by Evan Parker and on the clarinet by François Houle. Two by Four is dedicated to my good friends Jesse Canterbury and William O. Smith.

[6] Something Sweet, Something Tender (1964), by Eric Dolphy
Arranged for three clarinets (2002), by Jesse Canterbury

Recasting Eric Dolphy’s gorgeous music for our clarinet “trio” explores, on a small scale, the idea of juxtaposing traditional and radical musical elements. The arrangement itself is very simple in form. The double clarinet (played by myself) accompanies the solo clarinet (played by Bill) throughout. The improvisation section is very free, and the piece closes with the last phrase from the head, with a short cadenza. Bill’s work on this piece is simply amazing to me – it’s some of the most beautiful clarinet playing I’ve ever heard.

[7-13] Variants for Two Clarinets (2006), by William O. Smith

Variants for Two Clarinets was composed for Jesse Canterbury. I was struck by Jesse’s ability with extended techniques and wanted to write a piece for the two of us. The work is in seven short movements. A different timbre is explored in each of them. Fluttering emphasizes trilled multiphonics divided between the two clarinetists. The middle section uses disjunct motion in one voice accompanied by multiphonics in the other. Expressive contrasts high muted sonorities with normal clarinet sounds. Brash contrasts raucous multiphonics with flutter- tongued sounds and disjunct lines. Dramatic explores air and flute sounds in combina- tion with finger pops and bell taps. Slowly Floating uses dissonant multiphonics passed between the two clarinets. Angry combines both performers playing on the lower halves of the clarinet with Harmon mutes. Urgent uses the upper halves of the clarinet extended with short tubes that are manipulated to produce different timbres and pitches. Each performer plays two clarinets simultaneously.

[14] Polestar (2005), by François Houle (b. 1961)

Polestar was written specifically with Bill’s and Jesse’s sounds in mind. With the forces at hand I could have gone in so many directions with clarinet pyrotechnics. I chose instead to explore a more intimate space where the qualities of the two voices would meld into one, to create a meta-clarinet sound space where both players can really lose themselves. The piece is a salute to all the things I have learned from Bill, a true master and mentor, and from Jesse, the finest student of the instrument I have ever had the pleasure to work with.

[15-17] Quartet for Two Double Clarinets (1999), by William O. Smith

During a journey through Greece in 1977 I saw many depictions of double-pipe instruments in the ancient arts. It occurred to me that by putting a mouthpiece in the lower half of my clarinet and playing it simultaneously with the upper half that I would have a similar instrument. For this double clarinet, I wrote Five Fragments (1977). Later I wanted to write for two entire clarinets, and the result was Epitaphs for Double Clarinet (1993). During the ‘90s my friend, Paolo Rava played double-clarinet with me in our jazz group, and I enjoyed writing for our four-voice clarinet section. It then interested me to write a quartet for two double clarinets not in a jazz style. Later, in Seattle, my friend Jesse Canterbury became proficient on the double clarinet and we decided to include Quartet for Two Double Clarinets (1999) on this recording. Quartet for Two Double Clarinets is in three movements. The first, marked Bold, explores the four voices in mostly simultaneous sonorities, with occasional multiphonics. The second movement, Dramatic, is comparatively sparse and explores the use of the Harmon mute in the first clarinet and tube extension in the second clarinet. The last movement, Intense, is a perpetual motion piece in which the moving line is passed back and forth
between the two clarinets. In performing this piece, it was difficult to coordinate ensemble movements, since our bodies were effectively immobilized by the need to negotiate two clarinets each. We are grateful to Tom Baker for assisting us by conducting the first and third movements of Quartet.


Recorded and mixed by Doug Haire (www.doughaire.com) at Jack Straw Productions in Seattle.

Mastered by Barry Corliss at Master Works in Seattle.

Produced by Jesse Canterbury and William O. Smith for Present Sounds Recordings.

Executive Producers: Tom Baker and Mark Radonich.

CD Design by Mikiko Williams.

Cover art: PER LA VIE, gouache and collage of found papers from the streets of Rome, Virginia Paquette © 2005. Used by permission of artist.

Photo of clarinet material by Laurence Svirchev (www.misterioso.org). 

Photos of Bill and Jesse playing and smiling by Kate McElwee(www.katemcelwee.com), ©2007 Kate McElwee Photography.


Essay, Variants for Two Clarinets, and Quartet for Two Double Clarinets
by William O. Smith, Ravenna Editions (BMI).

Two by Four by Tom Baker (ASCAP). 

Polestar by François Houle, Tatterdemalion Music (SOCAN).

Something Sweet, Something Tender 
by Eric Dolphy, MJQ Music, Inc. (BMI), 
arranged by Jesse Canterbury. 

With the exception of Something Sweet, Something Tender, all pieces are licensed directly with the composers for this recording, and the composers retain copyright.

Supported in part bythe Jack Straw Foundation (www.jackstraw.org) and 4Culture of King County (www.4culture.org).

Thanks to Tom Baker, Mark Radonich, François Houle, Virginia Paquette, Stuart Dempster, Doug Haire, Mikiko Williams, Barry Corliss, Alissa Rupp, Laurence Svirchev, Kate McElwee, Hyeran Ihm, Hana Levay, Tom & Peggy Canterbury, Philip Gelb, and all others who helped in bringing us together and making this project a reality.

We owe special thanks to Scott Granlund, a Seattle-based woodwind technician and virtuoso saxophone player, and the Buffet-Crampon Company. Scott’s prototype of William O. Smith’s design for a whole clarinet that could be played with only the right hand was used extensively – along with Buffet’s somewhat more polished version – on this recording.



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Gloria MacKay

The album is all that I hoped. My order was handled efficiently and the CD arrived on time. I will order from CD Baby again.