Altitude was inspired by the teachings and personality of clarinetist, Robert Spring. As one of his students, I experienced first-hand his confidence, positivity, and infectious laugh and smile. He brings together his studio, past and present, into a close-knit community of musicians who look after one another like family. Bob is an extraordinary teacher, the kind we all strive to become, because he has a gift of seeing potential in a student and then motivating and inspiring them to achieve great things.
The piece is laid out in three contiunous movements. The first movement, Updraft, is filled with rising gestures, which signifies striving toward a higher goal. I have filled the score with descriptive words and phrases to motivate the performer (looking up, imagining, striving, with diligence, dreaming, with focus, with determination). Some phrases describe how every journey has its twists and turns, as well as ups and downs, but if you are persistent and stay on the path you will get there eventually. Sometimes you have to stop "noodling around" and just go for it! We all strive for higher heights in one way or another, whether spiritually, physically, emotionally, in our jobs, family, or in our dreams.
The second movement, Summit, signifies the view from the top. You have reached your goal in all its glory and shimmering wonder, and you can hardly believe it! You take a breath, slow it down, and admire all you have accomplished. You stay grounded by remembering where you started, and appreciate how far you've come.
The third movement, Sage, is reflective of the wisdom one gains from achieving a goal. When you put in your time, you reach a whole new level of expertise and gain a new perspective on life. Sage shows off what one can accomplish when you practice things with perfect repetition. Musically speaking, Sage is more jovial and exuberant and sounds more diatonic than Updraft, which has more chromaticism. There are moments of reflection, where motives from the first movement are echoed and transformed. the last gesture is reminiscent of Updraft, and is like a positively hopeful sigh to the future of things to come.
Altitude was commissioned by the students of Robert Spring in 2012 for his 25th Anniversary of teaching at Arizona State University.
Solo part included: Bb Clarinet