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A Conversation with Evan Ziporyn, a composer featured on Clarinet Hive

July 10, 2010

Clarinet Hive – Music by PIAZZOLLA, HARBISON, SCHULLER, PERSICHETTI arranged for Clarinet Ensemble
Schoen, Ardan, Morales, Paradise, Ognibene, Ziporyn

Taking its name from Evan Ziporyn’s Hive, which grew out of the composer’s experience as a beekeeper, this album brings together an engaging selection of pieces for solo clarinet and clarinet ensembles of various sizes. From Piazzolla’s popular tangos to Harbison’s Bach/Stravinsky-inspired Trio Sonata, Schuller’s Duo Sonata and Barker’s Single Six, both jazz-inflected yet classical in spirit, to Persichetti’s lyrical Serenade, Clarinet Hive is an endlessly fascinating showcase of the clarinet’s expressive and virtuosic potential, as well as its wide range of subtle sonorities.

Evan Ziporyn

Composer/clarinetist Evan Ziporyn is a founding member of the Bang on a Can All-stars (Musical America’s 2005 Ensemble of the Year), with whom he has toured the globe since 1992. He redefined the clarinet with his 2001 solo CD, This Is Not A Clarinet, which made numerous Top Ten lists across America. He recorded the definitive version of Steve Reich’s solo clarinet New York Counterpoint for Nonesuch and, as a member of the Steve Reich Ensemble, the Grammy Award winning Music for 18 Musicians. His music provided the soundtrack for the PBS film Tailenders, and his playing was featured in the soundtrack for David Lang’s (Untitled) and Tan Dun’s Fallen. He has also recorded with Paul Simon, Matthew Shipp, and Ethel. He is also Founder and Artistic Director of Boston’s Gamelan Galak Tika, a group dedicated to new music for Balinese gamelan, which he has studied for 30 years.

His work as a composer and performer led to his receiving the 2007 US Artists Walker Award and the 2004 American Academy of Arts and Letters Goddard Lieberson Fellowship. His music has been commissioned and performed by Yo-yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, Kronos Quartet, Wu Man, the American Composers Orchestra, the American Repertory Theater, Maya Beiser, So Percussion, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, with whom he recorded his 2006 orchestral CD, “Frog’s Eye.” Recordings of his works have been released on Cantalope, Sony Classical, New Albion, New World, Koch, Innova, and CRI. He has collaborated with some of the world’s most creative and vital living musicians, including Brian Eno, Ornette Coleman, Thurston Moore, Meredith Monk, Iva Bittova, Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Don Byron, Louis Andriessen, Cecil Taylor, Henry Threadgill, Wu Man, Wayan Wija, and Kyaw Kyaw Naing.

Recently, Naxos of America’s Megan McClary interviewed Evan about playing the clarinet and his involvement with the upcoming Naxos CD, Clarinet Hive, which was released in June 2010.

What was your first experience playing the clarinet?

Like all the boys in my class, I signed up for trumpet lessons in 4th grade. I had to put down a second choice, and my sister insisted I pick clarinet. They lined us all up to see who could get a sound out of the trumpet—I couldn’t, and my career as a clarinetist began…

Can you elaborate on the inspiration of your composition “Hive”?

My wife and I had recently become beekeepers, and I was fascinated with their strange, beautiful, and almost extraterrestrial behavior. I was particularly struck by the contrast between their warm weather life—zooming in and out of the hive, traveling for miles to find nectar—with their winter hibernation, huddled together in a big clump, vibrating to keep the queen warm. The piece really follows that life cycle more or less exactly.

How was this ensemble formed (i.e. have you worked with the other members previously)?

This was Ted Schoen’s project—he commissioned the piece based on my other work, which he had previously performed. I met all the other players—including Ted—when I walked into the first rehearsal. We recorded two days later.

What are your musical “guilty pleasures”?

All of music is a guilty pleasure…but in the last couple of days I’ve listened to Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, East Javanese street gamelan, Il Giardino Armonico playing Vivaldi, Don Byron’s Nu Blaxploitation, and Nik Bartsch’s Holon.

Source: The Naxos Blog on Sequenza21


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