By Erik Franklin
Every time Novacane begins to search for new music to play, I have to resist the urge to whine about the lack of quality music out there for our group. I think this is something we pick up in school - people always whine about clarinet trios, quartets, choir, etc. because there is “no good music out there”. Quartets in school tend to play the same pieces - Uhl, Summertime, Clarinet Polka, Licorice Sticks, you know the ones. This certainly doesn’t help the quartet image...Ever striving to play new things and spread the word about clarinet quartet, Novacane finds music from all kinds of places. I hope that by sharing these, this post can help quartets find music to play for all sorts of occasions.
If your group has ever Googled “clarinet ensemble music”, you have almost certainly come across this page. It has tons of pieces that we have used in the past. They are of varying difficulties and some lean towards the lighter side—many are great for weddings and “background music” gigs, or for fun pieces to add to any concert. Band directors and clarinet teachers should also start here for pieces that are manageable for your students. There are duos, trios, quartets, quintets...plenty for your kids to learn valuable chamber music skills! **Stay tuned for videos from Novacane**(If this goes out after some of our clar. inst. videos, we can link to them)
Uhl. Duh! There are plenty of published original works for clarinet that your group should consider learning. There are also published arrangements of several works that are worth the money. Careful to make sure it’s the arrangement that you want – some are better than others... Many sheet music vendors sell this stuff, as well as your school library. Not affiliated with a school library?—contact your local library and ask about getting music through ILL (Inter Library Loan). It’s super easy, and it gives you access to tons of stuff! (Add publ. websites like alry, amb, wwindina, jtown etc.)
The beauty of having a clarinet quartet is that we are almost required to make our own music. Many groups out there—including Novacane—have already added to their repertoire with their own compositions and arrangements. (check out Novacane's Here) Erin from the Lake Effect Clarinet Quartet (http://erinmiesner.weebly.com/arrangements.html) offers several of her great arrangements for great prices! Most groups have a repertoire page on their website. If you notice an interesting piece on a group’s repertoire list, contact them about it. First of all, they will be so tickled that you came across their pages (I always am!), and they will tell you where they found it!
Arrange your own!
It’s a lot of work, but worth the reward! A word of caution about this—make sure your musical selections don’t just “work”, but are effective. There is nothing wrong with an ambitious project—think the Imani Winds arrangement of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring—but there are some things that are frankly a bad idea (Mahler 2 for clarinet trio...) If you do arrange your own piece for clarinet quartet—let us know! It’s always nice to share new music.
Commission or compose your own!
See this post about working with composers. Adding quality pieces to the quartet repertoire is a chief mission of our quartet, and we have commissioned a handful of pieces from composers already. Doing more of this will only increase the amount of good music we have to choose from as clarinetists! Don’t be too intimidated about trying to compose your own music, either. We need to do this more as clarinetists. Pianists have great repertoire because the great composers wrote music for themselves to play. It’s about time we started writing music for ourselves, too!
We have it pretty good for wind instruments, with solo and chamber music by the greatest composers of all time! It’s true that there are less pieces for clarinet ensemble out there, but there are plenty of ways to find some repertoire to play. I have a great time with Novacane playing new and original works, as well as arrangements that we find or make ourselves!
Have you found any music from a new source lately?