Character Sketches (2003)
B-flat Clarinet; Piano
Character Sketches was written for Anne Watson, who commissioned the work. When I began writing the piece, I asked Anne to describe herself to me. Using both Anne's description and my own based on my experience with her as a teacher, fellow clarinetist, and friend, I wrote the movements hoping to capture the most entertaining aspects of her personality.
In the first movement, I pictured a conversation developing between the clarinet and piano. Each instrument takes turns being the "talker" and "listener." The constant motion depicts the idea of a talkative, outgoing, friendly person.
The second movement starts with a smooth, lyrical melody in the clarinet with a calm, steady accompaniment in the piano. In the middle section, the clarinet becomes more passionate with its dotted rhythms, and the piano takes on a mocking tone with its minor-second clusters. By the end of the movement, the clarinet returns to its original melody, with added syncopated rhythms to give it an improvisatory feel that is free of the beat.
Movement III has a slow, bluesy introduction that leads into a quicker blues feel with a jazzy bass line in the piano. In the middle of the movement, I occasionally mixed up the meter by omitting an eighth note from a 6/8 time signature to make a 5/8 time signature. In the end, the clarinet and piano return to material from the beginning of the movement, but at a quicker tempo.
The fourth movement begins with a bright, cheery, light melody in the clarinet coupled with a fast, waltz-like accompaniment that implies mischief. The movement travels through sections that are teasing, jazzy, passionate, and sneaky.