Lignes Floues

A few months ago I was cruising through my Twitter feed (@AlanTheisen) and noticed that composer Neil Anderson-Himmelspach was taking requests for his next collaborative project. I jumped at the chance and urged him to compose a work for clarinet and alto saxophone, a combination of instruments I find particularly appealing and infrequently explored by contemporary composers. I mentioned that, if he were to take my suggestion, I would gladly premiere the work with my good friend Lisa Kachouee.

By early December, Neil made good on his promise and electronically delivered the score for Lignes Floues for clarinet and alto saxophone, generously dedicated to me and my clarinetist colleague. 

The title translated from French means "Blurred Lines" (not to be confused with the recent controversial pop tune of the same name). True to the title's implication the piece frequently requires the two performers to emerge from a unison pitch,  unfold a delicate counterpoint that elegantly expands and contracts, fold back in upon itself, meet at another unison only to diverge yet again. This is the hymn of two melancholy people, the dual mists of their cigarette smoke merging into a single film noir cloud. 

The significant challenges as a woodwind performer playing this composition are not those of technique, articulation, or extremes of register but of matching tone qualities, phrasing as not to disturb the flow of the work, and the absolute necessity of flawless intonation. Notice in the following passage how the two lines build through a series of dissonant tritones and various sixths to a forte enharmonic major sixth only to abruptly drop to piano with a leap into a perfect unison (score is transposed). Anything less than spot-on intonation and the effect is ruined.

The climax of the composition is masterful and emotionally moving. Here, the music joyously rings with intervals of closely spaced consonant thirds, yet these conventional thirds nonetheless evade a single diatonic collection, simultaneously evoking E major and E minor. When performed with careful attention to intonation, these harmonic thirds produce strong difference tones clearly audible in a resonant space (the world premiere occurred in a chapel particularly suited for such phenomena). Notice as well that the climactic lines are in ideal registers on both instruments - high enough to be brilliant and powerful yet not so high as to enter a potentially off-putting altissimo range (excerpt is transposed).

Lisa and I are both thrilled and honored to have such a beautiful and effective composition written for and dedicated to us. Hopefully this is the beginning of a great collaborative partnership! Bravo, Neil!

You may listen to our recording by clicking here.

Performers Alan Theisen, alto saxophone and Lisa Kachouee, clarinet