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IAN BLAKE: Listen...

from Starling

(Clarity Clarinet Quartet)

Black Angels! These guys live at the Musée de Cluny in Paris rather than with the papal loot at the VaticanStarling is a quartet commissioned by Clarity, a leading Australian clarinet ensemble. Don't pay too much attention to the title: originally the music was to have been based on the idea of the movement of a huge flock of pre-roosting birds over St Peter's Square: a refreshing and life-affirming experience after a day's tour of the Vatican. But Starling remained as a working title as the piece took on its own personality and changed into something quite different: overlapping drones supporting a fluid, improvisatory exploration of the main themes, leading to dance-like sections (with footstomping obbligato) and quieter interludes, concluding - inconclusively - with a trancey dronal ending.

You'll hear a scale with a sharp fourth and a flat seventh that pops up around the world: Tatra Mountain fiddlers, Hindustani musicians, and film composers writing music for those wide ocean and deep space scenes (usually involving lots of french horns) are all fond of this mode. The English folk song Lucy Wan, quoted briefly, has a similar flavour.

The piece is basically in a slow 3/2 rhythm, which lends itself to interesting subdivisions, becoming quite jig-like at times and subverted by the occasional hiccup in 11/8 when it helped the flow, or I couldn't make it stick to the rules...

Here's the Clarity CD second door on the left where this piece now lives. And I'm now contemplating a piece closer to the original idea behind Starling: a swarm intelligence, 'multiplex of wing and eye' type thingy, which will possibly end up being called Pipistrelle if it doesn't get away like Starling did.