For Bass Clarinet and Percussion

by Christopher Fulkerson

CF's Composition Desk
To Download the Bass Clarinet part, CLICK HERE
This is the REVISED version of the solo bass clarinet part, made with the gracious assistance of the world-renouned bass clarinet pioneer Harry Sparnaay.
A computer realization is available.

To Download the Score CLICK HERE
The score is 49 pages long and is copied in the composer's fair hand, written with a straightedge.
NOTE: This is the UNREVISED version of the score. The bass clarinet part as represented here is no longer to be followed. For the revised bass clarinet part, see the above link. The percussion part is unchanged; therefore this score is for ensemble and percussion use only.

A computer realization is available.

During the 1980s the Boston microtonal composer Ezra Sims, whom I had commissioned to write his stupendous vocal octet THE CONVERSIONS for my vocal ensemble Ariel, made me aware of the exciting advances in Bass Clarinet technique that had been made by the Dutch players of that instrument, in particular their use of the altissima register. I was in touch with the Duo Contemporain, in which the Dutch Bass Clarinettist Henri Bok played with a percussionist, at the time Evert Le Mair. When I suggested a project they were very enthusiastic; before long I wrote this dual concerto for them; Henri provided me with fingerings and advice for the use of the altissima register of his instrument. We corresponded for some time in the effort to arrange an American tour for his Duo; this tour was to include the premiere of the new piece, but the tour did not materialize, in part due to the failure of the Waterfront Theater in San Francisco. I had been the chairman of the Music Committee of this noble and doomed effort to find a home for a small local company, the Pocket Opera, and with it other arts organizations, such as my contemporary vocal ensemble, and my instrumental group the Composers Chamber Players. I had read in history books of the effect of theater failure on the careers of various composers,notably Handel. No one who has not experienced the effect on their career of such a disaster can suspect the enormity of the problems such a thing can create. It wipes you out. When it happened to Handel he became a changed man. It has taken me decades to attempt to sort through all the details; the interrupted projects; the confusions between my own failings and those of others; the extra work needed to restore relationships; and the effects on relationships that will probably never be restored. All because America and the Americans are too shortsighted to build a worthwhile legacy, and seem fully willing to content themselves with popular music.

I had written and conducted my chamber concerto THE CHILDERMASS and had made the first realizations that the compositions I was writing and planning formed some kind of larger work; for more about this you may want to read A SKETCH OF THE FESTIVAL.THE CHILDERMASS took its title from the first book in Wyndham Lewis's cycle of novels called THE HUMAN AGE, and for a time I thought of writing at least one work for each novel in that cycle; I may yet do this. This duo concerto was to be the second part of some kind of cycle on Lewis's cycle. But I realized that this piece is too fantastical; it does not have the realism, nor the sarcastic and eventually hopeless tone that fit the later Lewis novels - the novel THE CHILDERMASS is anything but realistic, being one of the very most visionary works in all of Modernism, and for this reason it can be doubted that the later novels of Lewis's cycle really fit well with its opening masterpiece. This new duo concerto employs the same sonic imagery of high imagination that I used THE CHILDERMASS, which I hear as heroic and exalted... and visionary. I don't hear this piece as in any way realistic or sarcastic. And my work is never, not ever, hopeless. If I decide to write pieces that correspond to the later novels of Lewis's THE HUMAN AGE, I will have to carefully contrive how and to what degree those books' sarcasm and pessimism might be treated, or perhaps avoided.

The composition of this piece was interrupted briefly when I underwent brain surgery, and in time this fact seemed consistent with all the problems that went along with getting this piece to a performance, or even a proper computer realization, beginning with the theater failure that plagued that era's efforts. Except for a slight rethinking of the disposition of the instruments, it has never undergone musical revisions. I did chang the title and dedication of the concerto many times. I had the feeling that the two movements were like two different universes, like alternate versions of reality on either side of the two slits in the famous experiment in physics. But I have not known how to "objectify" this notion for this piece, other than through the obvious fact that it is in two movements. Perhaps the answer is in the piece. Often I redefine one work by writing another. The hard edge that could have been in THE CHILDERMASS is instead in the DUO NEVI. This allows THE CHILDERMASS to be more like a landscape in a dream, and the DUO NEVI to be more a waking exaltation. The ST. PEREGRINE'S CONCERTO has qualities of both: a clarity that makes its way to proclamation and exaltation, followed by a probing dream. From the beginning I knew the Bass Clarinet part would have a shamanic character. And shamen work both in reality and in dream.

Eventually I decided that the vast peregrinations of the piece's fate fit with the circumstances of my illness and healing in a way that seemed to correspond to a saint that my mother had brought to my attention, who healed himself of cancer (later, other doctors disagreed with the orginal diagnosis I had been given of a benign cancer and its treatment - nothing in this history seems ready to settle!). That saint had the name of Peregrine, in other words, one who travels widely. The name is also that of a breed of falcon, and this seemed to also bring the piece into the sphere of the cycle on Falconry that was taking shape.

ST. PEREGRINE'S CONCERTO has much in common musically with THE CHILDERMASS, both in its details and tone and in its structure of a fast movement followed by a slow movement. It was these two pieces that really made me believe that I could write music that was truly beautiful, noble, and heroic in tone. I remain very pleased with these compositions and with the musical possibilities they opened for me. The ST. PEREGRINE'S CONCERTO makes full use of the new virtuoso resources of the Bass Clarinet, and of the Percussion (though the percussion part can also be read by two players). It was completed in 1987, and is eleven minutes long.

I am very happy to say that in early 2012 the world-renouned Dutch bass clarinet pioneer Harry Sparnaay graciously went over the solo part of the concerto several times with me and offered his expert advice about how I might consider revising the solo part to make it possible, even when difficult. The revised solo part is offered in a link above. At my earliest opportunity I will complete the engraving of the entire score and make this available. For the time being, the unrevised score is still offered for use by percussionists and for esnemble playing purposes. The percussion part is unchanged.


When played by two players, the percussion requirement for this piece is:
Player One: Glockenspiel, Vibraphone, and Triangle
Player Two: Vibraphone and Marimba


Updated 9/29/2010. Updated again 7/10/2012.