Fairies

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Inspired by the watercolour series by Japanese artist, Yoshitaka Amano, “Fairies” uses clarinet and mallet instruments to portray the characters of each fairy. Premiered by Viðarneistí (Dr. Cathy Wood on clarinet and Victoria Sparks on mallet percussion)

Leprechaun uses a sinister playfulness as it recounts the luring of an adventurer into the forest with the false promise of a pot of gold, hoping to trap him for eternity. The jaunty (and often crunchy) marimba part acts as the leprechaun, coaxing the naïve clarinet into the woods using closely-voiced and dissonant harmony paired with animated rhythm.  Musically, the natural wood tone of the marimba characterizes the forest, while the lyrical sound of the clarinet is more akin to the human voice.  Contrast is used in a variety of ways and in both parts. In the first half, the marimba’s dynamic contrast lures the wanderer in, peeking then hiding itself again in the forest. It finally reveals itself in the open with its full thematic material halfway through. The clarinet tries to respond, but it cannot get a word in edge-wise – the leprechaun has already trapped the wanderer in the forest and the music slips away into the nothingness.

Titania is the queen of the fairies and exhibits both pride and delicacy amidst the vibraphone and soaring Eb clarinet. In the Shakespearean play, “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” she is bewitched by Puck and falls in love with Bottom the labourer, fully and completely.  While both the vibraphone and clarinet have their own motific content, the real character of each is in how they use the strengths of their own individual instruments. The sustained character of vibraphone creates a dream-like atmosphere, like Titania slipping into an enchanted amourous state. The Eb clarinet hangs above the cloud of vibraphone, moving in and out of the texture with sustained high notes.  Like Leprechaun, contrast plays an important role in this piece, this time with rhythmic pushing and pulling between the melody and accompaniment, like the internal swirling that often comes with love. However, the movement ends without a feeling of resolution, particularly because Queen Titania never wakes from her enchantment – the play ends with her still in love with Bottom, never returning to the king of the fairies.

Deep in the mines, the Knockers lead miners to ore and one miner believed that, if they knew where it was in the mine, they must have a wealth of it themselves, hidden from the humans. The miner devoted his days and nights to following the knockers until one day, he saw a line of them hiding their tools – one behind some ferns, another underneath a boulder, and the third on the miner’s lap. From the magical tools invisibly weighing him down, the miner never walked again after that day. The percussive marimba emulates the knocking, which frequently returns throughout the movement. Between each repetition, clarinet develops its musical material, like the miner searching through nearby for the tools, but continually taunted by the marimba’s knocking. Eventually, the meter changes and clarinet shrieks up high, as though finally finding the miners’ tools. The clarinet and marimba play the final phrase in a unison voice—the tools have found their way to the miner, though not in the way he intended and the spiteful fairies have won again.