Black Bear Dance, first horns, then clarinets

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for horn ensemble and community drumming group called Black Bear Dance. The notes about the piece say:

“In Black Bear Dance, I indulge my love of drumming, which really energizes the horn sound. The title comes from a line in the text for my choral piece Weaving the World: “and black bears roam the woods unseen”. The choral director rehearsed it a lot, and the image of a secret dance of bears stuck in my mind. Then on the Internet I found the Bear Dance painting of William Holbrook Beard. Aside from the fact that he was mocking stock-market bears, the image was just right.” [Update in 2015: try searching for the painting. I can’t find a stable URL]

Charlie, a friend who plays in a clarinet ensemble, suggested I arrange it for his group. At first, I wasn’t inspired to make the adaptation. The mapping of parts doesn’t easily match, and the piece is low-pitched – what would I do with the high Eb clarinet? And what about the drums?

Well, after a long wait, I revisited the music and was more in the mood to see the possibilities. Since there are five instruments in his group, I put the drumming rhythms into the clarinets, moving it around the ensemble so one player doesn’t get bored being the drone. I took advantage of the wide clarinet range and added a few extra bits where the drums had played alone. I think the result is energetic and fun, like the original but different.

Charlie’s group has the parts and they’re trying it out. In the meantime, I made a virtual-instrument mockup with Quantum Leap Gold and Kontakt’s Vienna Library. Have a listen (Black Bear Dance at SoundClick) and let me know whether you like it and whether it’s a good simulation of clarinets.

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