Archaeology (2015) by Christopher Wendell Jones
for clarinet, viola, and piano
World premiere; Earplay commission

In music, the past is inescapable. The influence of history is sometimes exposed at the surface of a work, at others, deeply subsumed into a synthetic whole, or may be present through its own negation. I find myself becoming increasingly self-aware of the traces of musical history as I continue to refine the form and language of my own music.

Among my works, Archaeology addresses this issue in a relatively direct manner — not through borrowed or derived materials, but through formal references and procedural conceits adapted (but not adopted!) from past models. The design of the piece is based on the use of refrains to delineate large sections of music, such as in Baroque ritornello forms. In this piece, however, the ritornello is conceptualized as a type of music with variable content, rather than as recognizable chunk of music that returns in more or less altered ways.

Initially heard as fragments of mercurial, angular music, each ritornello contrasts strongly with the surrounding episodes. As the piece progresses, the boundaries between ritornello and episode erode, allowing the ritornello material to become the principal focus of the music in the final third of the piece. Shards from earlier sections of the piece are periodically embedded in the fabric of the music, artifacts of past musical systems.

Archaeology was composed for Earplay in celebration of their 30 years of making outstanding New Music in the Bay Area. It is dedicated especially to Peter Josheff, Ellen Ruth Rose, Karen Rosenak and Mary Chun, in friendship and gratitude.

— C. W. J.    

[from program for March 16, 2015 concert]