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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000073.txt from 2008/05

From: Sean Osborn <>
Subj: [kl] Re: Gnarly buttons
Date: Mon, 12 May 2008 10:18:51 -0400

Of course I feel the need to encourage you all to look at Gnarly
Buttons again. It is the equal of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto. It
is also the most moving and accurate depiction of death I have ever
heard in music, even better than "Death and Transfiguration." If you
dissagree, I urge you give it one last chance and listen to the last
movement of my posted performance from a few years ago. The link is
on the bottom of

John Adams plays the clarinet, and he plays his fathers
instrument. When he was writing this piece, his father was dying of
Alzheimer's. "Put your loving arms around me" is not only the title
of the last movement, but the rhythm of every clarinet utterance for
the first 4 minutes of the piece (with some variation towards the
end). It's as if he is pleading with someone who no longer
recognizes him. Gradually, you hear the fear and anger of
Alzheimer's in his father taking over, until he's fighting,
shrieking, and ultimately...fading away. Please don't dismiss a
piece that can reduce audiences to tears.

As for the Hoe Down - it's just so COOL! And funny. From a Rhythmic
(and slightly academic) point of view - it's quite interesting and
complex. I also enjoy the fact that it's a spoof of a real hoe down,
and pokes fun at certain kinds of music.

The first movement is probably a made up tune (yes, tune!) that Adams
attributes to "protestant shape-note hymns." "The Perilous Shore"
evokes a stern 19th Century task-mistress or school-marm harping on
people to stay moral an upright. It's not happy music. It's not
romantic music, but it IS expressive and evocative (and not just my
version). Following the cadenza, things get interesting, and yes,
COOL again, especially on the last page, where it's like a Model-T
Ford breaking down on some bumpy back-road highway!

I would also like you all to consider that perhaps the performances
you have heard didn't do the music justice. I never liked the Brahms
piano concertos until I heard Andre Watts play the second last year,
and fell in love with it. When the Nielsen first came out, people
couldn't look past the technique to find the music underneath. I
think that might be the case hear. Give it another try.

It is truly a magnificent work, and we are blessed to have it.



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