Nickitas Demos

Rites of Passage



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    Rites of Passage_m1_excerpt
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    Rites of Passage_m3_excerpt

Rites of Passage (2010)

Nickitas Demos

I. sempre p e molto tranquillo - score preview

II. practiced nonchalance - score preview

III. momentary ecstasy - score preview

Duration: 15'

Commissioned by the Delta Omicron Foundation, Inc.

For many composers, the road to self-discovery usually goes through an encounter with great composers who came earlier. Among my many influences is the great 20th Century composer, Igor Stravinsky. The title of this particular work, Rites of Passage, is an obvious reference to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring though the piece itself is patterned after the composer’s seminal work for clarinet, Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo. Aside from the irresistible reference, the title underscores the two natures of this piece: an homage to Stravinsky’s solo clarinet composition on one level and an example of a certain type of rite of passage that most composers travel on another level.

My work is cast in three movements following Stravinsky’s slow–moderate–fast scheme in his solo clarinet work. I furthermore follow the exact tempo indications of Stravinsky’s work and also make references and direct quotes to Three Pieces throughout the composition. However, my work differs from the original in that I expand upon Stravinsky’s timbral explorations. In Three Pieces, the slow movement features a focus on the low chalumeau register of the clarinet. In my work, the first movement is performed on a bass clarinet in order to even further explore the depth and richness of the low clarinet sound. The second movement of my work requires the clarinetist to perform on the Bb clarinet thus exploring the middle range of the instrument in similar fashion to the movement found in Stravinsky’s composition. For the final movement, I again push the timbral notion that Stravinsky explores in his work. In Three Pieces, Stravinsky requires the clarinetist to switch to the Bb clarinet having scored the previous two movements on the lower sounding A clarinet. The effect is quite remarkable with the third movement not only containing the most rhythmic and exciting material of the piece, but also sounding much brighter due to the switch to the higher pitched Bb clarinet. In my work, I ask the clarinetist move from the Bb clarinet of the second movement to the high Eb soprano clarinet to even further explore the upper range of the clarinet sound in much the same way that I explore a lower sound in the first movement through the use of the bass clarinet. Other significant differences between my work and Stravinsky’s piece are the inclusion of a piano to accompany the clarinetist, the substantively greater length of my piece as compared to Stravinsky’s solo work and the use of descriptive titles for the second and third movements.