Theme and Absurdities is a humorously virtuosic piece for solo clarinet, a spoof of all those loveable yet undeniably annoying theme and variations pieces based on some aria. A whole bunch of these were written for clarinet between about 1850 and 1930, and they make great encore pieces. This one is a particularly nightmarish tribute to the genre: the variations are served up in eight-bar chunks, growing steadily in ridiculousness.
The nugget of the piece is contained in the opening phrase. The theme is complex - certainly unsingable, with large jumps through the interval of a seventh - and almost as absurd as the eleven "absurdities" (and coda) that follow.
Theme and Absurdities employs a huge pitch range; at one point the clarinet ekes out a high D. Daring three-octave leaps are taken, technique itself becomes the subject of ridicule (chromatic runs, flutter-tonguing, notes jam-packed into a few measures,) and directionality is added in the coda as the clarinet is unceremoniously waved from side to side. The variations end with a quote from Also Sprach Zarathustra - a fitting bit of pomposity for the whole endeavor.
- Mic Holwin
(adapted from his note for Derek Bermel's CRI recording of the piece)
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers. With commitment to diversity, disruption and discovery, ACO produces concerts, pre-college and college education programs, and emerging composer professional development to foster a community of creators, audience, performers, collaborators, and funders.
Receive the latest news
Join Our Mailing List!
Get notified about new events, opportunities and the latest ACO happenings