Music by Daniel Dorff


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Dance Music for Mr. Mouse
A Cartoon Ballet for Eb Clarinet and Piano (and optional animation) (9')

In 1981, I had recently joined the Haddonfield Symphony as bass clarinetist, where the Eb clarinetist was Sherry Hartman-Apgar who was finishing a performance degree at Temple University. Before long, Sherry invited me to write her a recital piece for Eb clarinet with piano, which I was eager and ready to dive into.

While daydreaming about how to create a work uniquely in the spirit of the Eb clarinet, I happened to see a magazine ad for a new line of Sony home stereo amplifiers claiming their control knobs glide so smoothly that a mouse could turn them. The ad had a photo of an adorable mouse standing up using the stereo.

At the same time, I'd been thinking that the squeaky and melodramatic use of Eb clarinet in Till Eulenspiegel was also a fun model to parody for the Eb clarinet as protagonist.

These ideas quickly fused, bearing a programmatic excuse to write a recital piece with strong influence from Led Zeppelin and Chuck Berry, about a mouse who goes to a dance party, dances up a storm with various girl mice, until he finally keels over fatally, gently ascending to heaven in the coda. I also hoped this could later be animated in the brilliantly surreal style of Max and Dave Fleischer's cartoons of the 1930s.

 *      *      *

The scenario:

Introduction (m. 1): Mr. Mouse enters a dance club and eyes a fashionably chic and glamorous girl mouse, full of superficial sizzle.

Dance 1 (m. 9): They dance for awhile, and there is much flirting and teasing, which leads only to increased flirting and teasing. Mr. Mouse is easily distracted by...

Dance 2 (m. 50): ... a much more sophisticated lady (plucked whiskers) interested only in imported cheeses, oldstyle swing music and dance, and the spotlight. While off to fetch her brie, he is distracted by...

Dance 3 (m. 104): ... a sweet young thing, with big pink eyes and graceful ears that tug at his heart. They fall in love instantly, and he croons a romantic ballad. By the end of the song however, she fades from his imagination, revealing that he's only hallucinated her fantasized existence.

Mr. Mouse's Dance of Death (m. 150): A very charismatic bad-girl mouse sees him dejected and lonely, picking him out as eager prey. She sweeps him off his feet, exciting him into a choreographic frenzy. They lead each other into wilder and wilder dancing until he keels over fatally, at which point his immortal parts ascend peacefully into the mousie heavens.

 
Performance by Mark Margolies and Corry Bell

REVIEW by Paul Roe in The Clarinet, March 2015
"Daniel Dorff has written a most attractive work for the often-neglected E-flat clarinet – at least when it comes to solo repertoire. As someone who held an orchestral position on E-flat some years ago it was great to be provoked into taking the piccolo clarinet out again after years of neglect. It really was fun to play through this piece. It's not particularly difficult for a professional player and would certainly add variety and color to a recital program. It does go up to altissimo A towards the end, so for non-E-flat players it will take a little while to get your chops in shape to play it. However, it certainly is worth the effort. The publisher describes it thus: "... using rock-infused themes and the squealing glory of the E-flat clarinet... this dance suite, which is at once entertaining, and also a striking recital work... setting the tale of an exuberant mouse dancing himself to an early demise."
        -Paul Roe, The Clarinet magazine, March 2015

last updated 9/7/15
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