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From God's Back 40


 for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano

June 22--October 7, 2017
Duration: about 28 minutes                cover photo: Country Boy from Jim McGuire's studio, 1997

for Washington Musica Viva


Video from March 24, 2019, Meredith College, Raleigh NC

Eric Pritchard, viola; Fred Jacobowitz, clarinet; Carl Banner, piano

Score PDF      Clarinet part      Viola part     Cover

I. Gimme that Old-Time Tetrachord    MP3
   Don't Be Shy    [7:40]  
II. Yet Another Waltz     MP3    

    Anorexia composa        [6']   

III. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi     MP3

    Lento      [5:30]    

IV. The Albuterol Stomp     MP3
    Speedy      [5:30]



          In June 2017, clarinetist Fred Jacobowitz and pianist Carl Banner, director of Washington Musica Viva, asked me to write a trio for clarinet, viola, and piano. I had just moved to the little town of Cleveland, North Carolina, in rural western Rowan County, nestled in the bucolic Piedmont about an hour drive from the nearest big cities. I had lived in Raleigh since 2001, and retired in May after seven years teaching physics at NCSU. Such is the result of budget cuts and declining health; at age 62, it was time to go.

          So I settled in with an old friend who had some extra space in his home, where I had time to do what I like and take care of my health. With a cortisone shot in my shoulder, I started playing an electric 6 string violin. I couldn’t compose during my final months in Raleigh, but the new environment proved fertile for creativity. (One must be attentive to the muses, and fighting urban traffic can drown them out.)

          The first movement is based on various tetrachords, which is very common in my music—not from some theoretical plan, but just because that seems to be how things work out and sound right. I have written a piece before titled Diatonic Phrygian Tetrachord, which was more specific about that particular type. There is a somewhat baroque flavor to this section, as I came up with the basic ideas after listening to Bach violin concertos.

          The second movement is yet another waltz, as I have written altogether too many already. I wouldn’t recommend trying to dance to this one.

          The third movement has a touch of country roots music to it; I am trying my hand at old fiddle tunes, and it’s well-suited to the rural surroundings.

          The finale is a big fast ending, inspired by my inspiration of albuterol as an inhaled medication for my COPD. One of the main problems of this disease (as well as my arthritis) is extreme fatigue; albuterol is a potent stimulant, as well as helping breathing. Only lasts three or four hours, but does the job.

Performance notes

          My usual style of piano playing is heavy on the sostenuto pedal; the indicated pedal marks are really required, but please use freely. Notes that do not have dots are not short. In case of programming constraints, individual movements may be performed by themselves or in any combination. It would be unfortunate if the total length of this piece inhibited performance.

          The viola is going to have a balance issue matched against potentially louder instruments. Skilled performers can compensate; also, it is fine with me if the viola is either amplified or electric, such as an electric 5 string violin.