During the winter of 2011 I received an email from Italian clarinetist Arianna Tieghi. Arianna was a stranger to me, and she explained that she was undertaking the monumental task of commissioning pieces by composers from all fifty states.
Arianna’s “From USA Project” struck me as a brilliant idea; an ambitious young musician reaching out to composers from across the pond to build new professional and personal relationships with folks she wouldn’t otherwise meet. I agreed to write a short solo piece for her, and before long I’d secured funding to travel to Italy to speak at the festival where Arianna would also premiere the work the following summer.
My program notes are reproduced below:
As I began work on [Lingua Franca] I found myself obsessing over and constantly manipulating a collection of four pitches derived from Arianna’s name (A, D#, B and G#). It struck me that the experience was similar to learning a new language, when it is not unusual to find oneself unable to express even a simple idea; attempting multiple ways of getting the point across with slightly different words or phrases (also called circumlocution or periphrasis). That is precisely how the piece unfolded: as a series of attempts to express something of which I was ultimately unsure. The title also makes reference to the vast number of articulations, or ways of initiating a note, that are called for over the course of the work.
Careful consideration was paid to register and type/amount of activity, while at the same time allowing the clarinet to jump from quickly from one register to another (something it does exceptionally well). At the outset the high register is reserved for a syncopated, repeated note motive, the middle for small, isolated leaps and scales, and the low for a murmuring, oscillating figure. Over the course of the work these events are juggled among the instrument’s registers and the piece becomes more frenetic as it attempts to express its own essence.
My partner Rico aptly describes the piece as “cubist,” an exercise in the simultaneous depiction of multiple perspectives.
During my two weeks in Umbria and Rome, I had the opportunity meet many new friends and colleagues including Loretta Notareschi, Charles Nichols, Orlando Legname, Linda Marcel, and Guido Arbonelli, to name only a few.
It was also a personally significant trip for me, as it was the first time I set foot on the native soil of my paternal grandparents. I felt immediately comfortable and at home in Italy; as if I knew the place in some deep, unconscious, genetic way.
This recording was made by Arianna Tieghi at the University of Rome, Tor Vergata in July, 2012. It is reproduced here with kind permission of the IAEF and ICIA.