SMALL CHAMBER ENSEMBLE - Coming Together (1999) Program Notes


A high degree of virtuosity is required for Coming Together (1999), for clarinet and cello. Coming Together is a quintessential Bermel work: humorous, gesture-based and demonstrating a keen ear for invoking the human voice. Commissioned by the Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center and Merkin Hall for Bermel and Fred Sherry (who perform it on this disc), this short duo consists entirely of glissandi. Says Bermel, "I wanted to write a piece without any straight pitches, one which relied solely on gestural development, yet which would still be convincing and emotional." Bermel achieves this by specifying exactly where each pitch starts and ends and where each glissando occurs in time this careful placement of tonal areas defines the structure and carries the piece forward.

As in Soul Garden or the Quartet, the playing field is defined in the first gesture of Coming Together: a low cello moan-uhhhh. The cello catches the clarinet's attention with bold pizzicati, the clarinet squawks in protest, the cellist petulantly drops his bow and lets it bounce on the strings (col legno battuto). At first distant in pitch and gesture, the two partners slowly converge, moving closer in range and rhythmic intensity. They seem to unconsciously mimic each other. Intense stroking by the cello incites the clarinet to high shrieks. The intimacy becomes disarming, like enduring the sound of cats in heat in the yard next door or overhearing a frisky couple in an adjoining hotel room.

By the end, the instruments have indeed come together disparate lines have converged to a single point, and they groan in rhythmic unison. A husky-voiced clarinet produces a ripping multiphonic; dif ference tones emerge from the combined growl of the two instruments. The tryst ends with another col legno battuto.

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