for clarinet trio
commissioned by the Ambassador Trio
The times in which we live are strange and—at this current moment—I am quite at a loss for words on how to describe it. We have seen an unearthing of the “seedy underbelly” of society—once believed by many in my generation to be suffering a slow, gangrenous, and wholly unceremonious death—found to be in full health and in tact, ready to spread its cancer into the enlightened people hopefully guiding us all to a better tomorrow. This sector is now empowered across the globe to act in utter disregard to the world around them while selfishly pursuing a fiction that their lives were better when people unlike them are the enemy and everyone is fighting for what is theirs—unless you are rich, in which case you just rig the system to screw everyone else.
The heavy-handedness of this statement is not lost on me, but we live in a time where nuance does not exist, and subtleties of reality are diluted in a pool of unchecked emotions. So heavy-handed it is.
Now, what does all of this have to do with a clarinet trio? Ultimately, nothing (my school of thought is to not impress meaning onto a listener since it will stifle their chances to simply experience something, whatever that is). However, to be honest, this piece is “inspired” by what looks like the collapse of our society and the imminent destruction of our world, all linked to the reemergence of this corrosive boil that, again, I naïvely thought was shriveling up and dying.
In the score,one would see similar heavy-handedness in the style indications throughout the piece—hopefully the musical satire is not lost, either. The first movement, titled A Big Lie, is a direct reference to Hitler’s quote about how the masses will not believe a small lie, but they will definitely believe a big one. The movement is modeled on the idea that something has taken over and the good masses realize it way too late to do anything more than be mildly discontent, ultimately devolving into sheep as the falsehoods wash over them by the hundreds.
The second movement, Exhausted Resistance, is the observation that the public outcry against the social and environmental atrocities is fading, be it through coverup or fatigue, and the apocalypse that will ensure. The indication “Comically apocalyptic” is a small hat tip to the great Mel Brooks who said about his movie, The Producers, that he could not be mad at Hitler for what he did, so instead he thought it best to make fun of him.
Lastly, and maybe most depressingly, is We Are Tired Now. Yes, I fully acknowledge that there is something weird and maybe quite inappropriate about a white guy decontextualizing a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., especially when one considers that instead of a call to action as it was originally used, it is taken quite literally, and used to imply that any resistance to the current social climate is being overtaken and destroyed. But maybe, just maybe, the satire—and reality—of impending doom can help activate and expand the original call that hopefully we will see soon, and in a force much greater than experienced thus far. Maybe….