Sparling by Laurence Crane

From the Arraymusic Concert Formless

Colleen Cook, clarinet
Stephen Clarke, piano

Laurence Crane was born in Oxford in 1961 and studied composition with Peter Nelson and Nigel Osborne at Nottingham University. He now lives and works in London. His music is mainly written for the concert hall, although his list of works includes pieces written for film, radio, theatre, dance and installation.

Sparling was written in the autumn of 1992 for the clarinettist Andrew Sparling.

The original version, heard tonight, is for clarinet and piano but a number of other versions also exist, where the piano part is transcribed for other instruments or is arranged for different chamber combinations.

One impetus for the composition of the piece came from Cornelius Cardew’s Solo with Accompaniment. Not from the music or from the notation of that work but rather from the idea of reversing traditional roles of soloist and accompanist. In Sparling, the clarinet plays a phrase consisting of two notes – one short and one long – and repeats this phrase over and over, thirteen times during the course of the piece. The piano has two sequences of chords, which are always presented in the same rhythm, and the second sequence gradually evolves and accumulates extra pitches. It’s essentially static but the tiny amount of change that does take place in the work happens in what might be thought of as the accompanying instrument in a traditional duo relationship. What is foreground and what is background in this piece? I’m not sure.

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