SOLO INSTRUMENT - Thracian Sketches (2003) - Program Notes

"In August 2001, I traveled to Plovdiv , Bulgaria , to study the Thracian folk style with clarinetist Nikola Iliev. Thracia is a region in Bulgaria which stretches over the Rodopi mountains and extends into Modern Greece. I spent several hours each day transcribing and memorizing the songs, Nikola's nephews Emil and Misha assisting by translating from Bulgarian to French or English. I used this material as the basis for an orchestra piece for the Westchester Philharmonic, 'Thracian Echoes'. In this piece I bent the original Bulgarian modes into a whole tone melodic context while retaining much of the original rhythm and contour, especially the tendency to sustain tied mordents over the barline in odd meters.

In 2003 I was asked to perform a recital as part of a residency during the Seminarios of the Universidade Federal da Bahia in Salvador, Brazil . I revisited the material upon which I had based the orchestra piece, and began experimenting with phrases from several faster, instrumental songs -- Paydushko Xhoro (5/8), Mizhka Richenitza (7/8), Daychovo Xhoro (9/8), and Krivo Pazardzhishko Xhoro (11/16) -- once again, altering the modes. The piece begins in the lower register of the clarinet, and moves through the songs, increasing in velocity, range, and the complexity of rhythmic groupings as it progresses. I thought of "Thracian Sketches" as a minimalist form, and I dedicated it to John Adams, who had conducted my clarinet concerto the previous year in Los Angeles."
-Derek Bermel

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