Crosswinds represents a melding of the traditional woodwind sound of the clarinet with digital live electronic techniques, and the piece explores the potential for this relationship in three parts.
To begin the piece, the stage performer breathes through the clarinet, which serves to inform the electronic elements to come. This initial breath is captured by the computer program and is modified and reduplicated to create the sonic tone of a soft wind always present beneath the piece to come. This is the first step in uniting the digital and woodwind elements, as the same breath which animates the clarinet also activates the electronics.
From this most fundamental element, the breath becomes a single sustained note from which the computer will generate all of its subsequent tones. The impression is one of a mentor relationship, where the traditional instrument provides the tools and the support for the electronic elements. The disposition is contemplative, though it alternates between a subdued easiness and a playful mystery, as if to introduce the digital aspects to the range and variety of the clarinet’s moods. The rapport between the two is hesitant in the first part: the electronics contributing a subtle reverb as the performer teaches the computer dexterity through a number of broad leaps, hinting at but never fully embracing the main motif.
As the theme becomes more self-assured, the digital element now produces its own tones, parroting the clarinet melody to signal its readiness to be an equal partner in the conversation. As the clarinet begins the second part of the piece, the computer now provides a harmonizing undercurrent each time it is invited to do so by the performer.
In the third part, the electronics play counterpoint to the skill of the clarinetist, the two elements intricately entwined. From the elemental sound of wind first produced by the performer and perpetuated by the computer, the piece concludes in a celebration of the relationship built between the two, and the main theme is fully expressed as the two take it in variations.
Crosswinds is, in many ways, an experience of the history of our music through the relationship between traditional clarinet and modern digital techniques: the common elements they share, the singularity of their own particular strengths, and the beauty that can be experienced when they collaborate.
Program note by Walter Jordan