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PROGRAM NOTES by the composer
BFF's for Eb Clarinet and Bb Clarinet

The giddy pleasure of writing for the Amicitia Duo (Diane Barger, Eb clarinet; Denise Gainey, Bb Clarinet) inspired this little suite's title and each movement's themes. These wonderful friends are exemplary performers, teachers, and leaders in the clarinet community; their delightfully quirky humor thrives in tandem with serious dedication to their work. Individually and as a duo, Denise and Diane are the embodiment of traits I aspire to.

Amicitia is Latin for friends, and Diane and Denise are well-known among clarinetists for referring to each other as BFF's. During the unfamiliar shock of desolate quarantine in 2020, their cheeriness on social media was a refreshing oasis. While the commission (from University of Alabama-Birmingham) had been planned prior to that summer, it was in July 2020 that I turned my attention to writing this duo.

I generally avoid theoretical tricks that won't be heard, and I've never been interested in the centuries-old tradition of turning alphabet letters into notes to create a theme. But while planning a piece for these BFF's, for instruments that transpose a 4th away from each other, my gears started turning. With this context, I couldn't resist embracing rather than discarding the inaudible gag.

The notes seen and fingered B-F-F on an Eb Clarinet sound a perfect 4th higher than the same B-F-F on a Bb Clarinet, so this scheme could lead to fugue-like imitation, or parallel motion in 4ths or 5ths, while remaining B-F-F for each instrument. But there's more! Each of these three notes could be sharp, natural, or flat; they could jump an octave up or down; and every movement could use a different motivic design for developing the 3-note cell. Suddenly there was an expanding universe of possibilities unfolding, with each player reading B-F-F on their respective instrument. The concept was tightly organic yet flexible (like Brahms and Beethoven) rather than monotonous (like a "perfect" homework assignment). With that in mind, my mission was to write a suite sounding spontaneously composed, without conspicuous adherence to a rule.


last updated June 13, 2022