Such Gentle Rapture, for clarinet and piano, takes its title from a somewhat unlikely source: a spy thriller. Barry Eisler’s Redemption Games, to be exact, part of his series of novels featuring the Japanese-American assassin John Rain. It’s rare for me to find titles mid-paragraph in fiction – it’s more common that I find them in poetry or, if in fiction, in chapter headings – but this little phrase was too beautiful to pass by.
The piece is cast in rondo form – Slow-Fast-Slow-Fast-Slow – and makes use of a small handful of musical motives in ever-changing configurations. It’s this kaleidoscopic treatment of the musical materials that transforms what begins as a traditional “recital piece” with melody and accompaniment into a true dialogue between the instruments.
Such Gentle Rapture is part of a larger collection of duos that, although musically unrelated, share a common moment of conception. In 2013, I challenged myself to write thirteen short pieces that feature in turn all of the primary instruments in the standard orchestra (minus percussion, plus saxophone). The first work, Silverpoint, was composed in the month following the premiere of my first orchestra piece, Only Air. Life and other projects put the challenge on hold until August 2014, when I began Such Gentle Rapture before once again being distracted. I tinkered with the piece on and off for several months, adding a handful of measures at a time, until March 2015, when the second half flowed out of me in a matter of two days.