Phillip Clark


for tuba quartet

duration: 9 minutes

Smack! was inspired by the big band leader Fletcher Henderson whose innovations were one of the main contributory factors that lead to the swing era in the 1930s and 40s. His nickname was 'Smack'.

Despite his innovative ideas and keen sense of musicial adventure, his career was blighted by public indifference and the dilution of hie ideas by white band leaders. He always aimed for virtuosic ensemble passages with plenty of space to feature his jazz soloists - he was the first band leader to coax Louts Armstrong out of New Orleans and to employ Coleman Hawkins.

My piece honours his sense of invention and pours scorn on the indifference! Just as Fletcher Henderson build his own soundworld out of the material around him. I have built my own soundworld out of material from his work. My piece reinvents this material using my own harmonic, textural and structural techniques.

"Smack" was written for Tubalate and lasts about ten minutes.

Phillip Clark's music glides effortlessly between classical music and jazz. He has been described as a "master of deconstructing" by Dave Brubeck and Michael Finnissy sees his music as being "unique and distinguished". He is fascinated by putting together musics that don’t belong and this gives his pieces a juicy recklessness.

He had his early work performed by the London Sinfonietta Soloists, Joanna MacGregor, the Basle Soloists and Alison Wells. In 1995 he was joint winner of the first BBC Symphony Orchestra Composers Forum and the resulting piece City Mosaic was broadcast by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pascal Rophe in February 1997. Other performances in 1996 included Foolish Thing by members of the Philharmonia as part of the South Bank Birtwistle Festival, Steinzas One by Fiona Kimm and the Nash Ensemble at the Spitalfields Festival and Sparkling Edge by the City of London Sinfonia conducted by Mark Forkgen.

His love and encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz always informs his work, including the ensemble piece Corporate Blues written for the Clarion Ensemble and his String Quartet for the Brodsky Quartet. June 1999 saw performances of a new version of Sparkling Edge by the Romanian Radio Chamber Orchestra under Neil Thomson and Triumph Song by the Aleph Ensemble at the Bath Festival. His Crepuscule March is part of an ongoing concern in combining jazz improvisers with classical ensembles which started with his fifty minute epic Inventing Fiction.

In 2000 he was commissioned to write Voice Of An Angle for the Composers Ensemble at the Hoxton New Music Days and the piece was broadcast on Radio 3. He has recently completed Home for the virtuoso pianist Ian Pace and future projects include a new orchestral work and a commission for the Cheltenham Festival. He also writes about jazz and new music for Jazz Review, International Piano Quarterly and The Wire.

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