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Sonata "Muskoka" for Clarinet & Piano

Instrumentation: clarinet, piano
Duration: 13:00
Year Composed: 2010
Commissioner: Trevor Pittman (Windsor, Ontario, Canada)
  1. LAKE: open water, brilliant sun, shimmering surface
  2. MARSH: winding waterways, tall reeds, punctuated tranquillity

The two movements may be performed in either order.
The first movement (6:00) may be performed separately.

Audio Samples

Lake (middle)

Marsh (middle)

Program Notes

While living in Toronto my wife and I would escape the city every summer by spending a week in cottage country. One year we rented a cabin in the Muskoka region that had the distinction of sitting on a rock face overlooking a wide lake while at the same time bordering a narrow tributary that led to a vast marsh. We spent the bulk of our time canoeing on the open lake and along a winding channel that cut through the marsh—the two scenes I depict in this sonata.

The first of these, "LAKE: open water, brilliant sun, shimmering surface", and marked "Nervous, exuberant", reflects the joy of being out on the open water. The music's flowing ostinatos, syncopations and cross-rhythms reflect the rhythm of the waves and of the canoe, and the dance of the sun's light on the water.

The second scene, "MARSH: winding waterways, tall reeds, punctuated tranquillity", offers a contrasting experience. Here tension-laden stasis unexpectedly gives way to brief moments of activity. On one occasion, while gliding in our canoe among the tall grasses, we paused at a beaver dam and waited patiently for one of its inhabitants to emerge from within. Instead, the stillness was interrupted by a loud splash some ways behind us—a beaver slapping its tail to signal danger. Not all the wildlife was as elusive: we saw a black bear rambling along the shoreline at dusk; and a great blue heron taking flight as soon as it noticed that we had noticed it.

In the score I have indicated that the movements can be played in either order and have designed the music accordingly: it seems immaterial whether one experiences the lake or the marsh first. The first movement may also be performed separately.

Trevor Pittman, a clarinetist who I had the good fortune of meeting during my year teaching at the University of Windsor, Ontario, commissioned the sonata; I have dedicated the work to him.



  • Ananta Duo (Cecilia Kang & Ana María Otamendi), tour 2018
    ::Feb 19—LSU School of Music (Baton Rouge, LA)
    ::Feb 27—University of South Carolina School of Music (Columbia, SC)
    ::Feb 28—Furman University Department of Music (Greenville, SC)
  • Jun 3, 2015—Sean Rice (cl) & Lucas Bell
    "Lake". Tabaret Hall, University of Ottawa (Ottawa, ON)
  • Jun 14, 2014—Päivi Kiljala (cl) & Sonja Fräki
    Kallio-Kuninkala Chamber Music Festival (Järvenpää, Finland)
  • Nov 13, 2011—Trevor Pittman (cl) & Gregory Butler
    Assumption Chapel, University of Windsor (Windsor, ON)


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