Stateless Liner Notes 3/10: Rain Catalog

Post 3 of 10: Rain Catalog

And here we all drop out and leave Cory Wright alone on the stage. First take, I should note! Although it was always intended to be adaptable to a variety of solo instruments, Rain Catalog began life as a cello prelude. No doubt this piece’s transition to life as a piece for solo wind instrument (usually) was smoothed over by the fact that the great composer Claude Debussy’s solo flute masterwork, Syrinx, was a significant inspiration.

In July 2014, I was invited to present an evening of original music for various ensembles, as part of the San Francisco Center for New Music’s Best Coast Composer series (curated by future NCG bassist Lisa Mezzacappa). Along with a set by the Nathan Clevenger Group (at the time a sextet augmented by Jordan Glenn on vibraphone, in an early indication of the coming NCG percussion deluge) and a new extended piece for improvising quartet (The Seamless Sea, performed by yours truly, Cory Wright, Sam Bevan, and Jordan Glenn), I also presented a brief set of pieces for solo winds, performed by the versatile Mr. Wright. Rain Catalog was played during this set, for the first time as a solo clarinet piece.

Prior to this first public Clevenger Group performance as a clarinet piece, Rain Catalog was afforded a few readings by the cellist Crystal Pascucci. Crystal is truly singular and irreplaceable talent on the local scene, equally masterful as a performer, composer, and improvisor. Excellent singer too! My other current working ensemble, Ashen Cleric, would not be feasible without Crystal’s unique and varied skill set; turns out it’s not easy to find a cello player capable of addressing music that is free or rigorously composed with equal authority and creativity. Crystal has been an occasional guest with the Group, and we are very fortunate indeed to have her contributing to 4 pieces on Stateless.

You may recall my earlier mention of the French master, Claude Debussy. Along with Thelonious Monk, Morton Feldman, Andrew Hill, Ellington/Strayhorn, Sun Ra, and Anthony Braxton (for starters), Debussy resides squarely in the very top tier of my personal composer pantheon. I’ve apparently had a deep affinity for Debussy’s harmonic territory, predating my actual exposure to — much less study of — his music. What was less natural to me, and, hence, more directly influential, was the mysterious and quicksilver melodies he created. As much as I’d already embraced his remarkable piano pieces (maybe my favorite music ever), La Mer, and that ode to everyone’s favorite midday faun, I do think my engagement was spurred significantly upon learning that the great clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre’s trio w Paul Bley and Steve Swallow (another all-time favorite group/music) was influenced by Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp. This information was enough for me to buy the score and do my best to gain some insight, which opened many a door. (Apologies for the abrupt ending; I don’t want reading this to take longer than it takes to listen to the piece.)