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Music Sheets and a Cross

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

5 Plainchants for Clarinet (2009) are meant to flow in a manner emulating cantorial practice where chanting imitates speech and song rhythms. Even in passages where many notes are of equal duration, a sense of flow must have priority over a sense of evenness that would lead to a perception of rigidity. These are wordless prayers springing from a practice of meditation. The chants are freely derived from existing Byzantine Rite tradition of "prostopinije" (plain singing) as transcribed in the late 19th Century. Those who know this tradition may also have text associations with the specific chants used (for instance, Podoben Tone 2 is associated with the Great Friday Vespers) but performers are asked to realize the composition according to the individual perception of the chant. While notation at any given point may be specific and exact, the intention is to give an indication of the rhythm in the immediate context of the surrounding music. Therefore, individual performers may and should realize the composition in the spirit of an individual cantor. For instance, the opening plainchant has numerous breath marks; the individual performer is called upon to decide whether to realize these as short breaths (and therefore perhaps preserve the continuity of line) or longer breaths (and therefore perhaps sacrifice the continuity of line in order to preserve a continuity of spirit). Quarter-tone bends are similarly flexible as to length, timing, etc. Given the meditative aspects of the first, third, and fifth chants, it's entirely possible that different realizations may run the gamut of a total duration of the composition from ca. 9 to 16 minutes. One of the challenges embraced in this solo competition was that of embracing advanced performance techniques and exploiting a wide range of clarinet possibilities within a context that was antithetical to pyrotechnic display. 5 Plainchants for Clarinet is dedicated to Keith Lemmons for whom the composition was written and who premiered this work in New Mexico and New York City with great sensitivity and understanding. The five movements are:

1) Sahmolasen Tone 4: A Clarinet

2) Sahmolasen Tone 3: Bb Clarinet

3) Podoben Tone 4: Bb Bass Clarinet

4) Bolhar Tone 5: Bb Clarinet

5) Podoben Tone 2: A Clarinet

The entire composition can be found on Navona records.

Listen to the opening movement of 5 Plainchants (Keith Lemmons, A-clarinet) on previous page.

The score for the 3rd movement can be found below:

The score for the 3rd movement can be found below:


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