for wind ensemble
Click to buy : Score: $50. Parts for hire.
Commissioned by the Central Oklahoma Directors Association (CODA).
World premiere on January 9, 2008, with the CODA honor band in Norman, Oklahoma, conducted by Richard Clary.
Like many of John Mackey’s works, Clocking is influenced strongly by dance and movement, though its two movements, seemingly disparate, incorporate the idea of motion in entirely different ways. The title is intentionally vague, like Mackey’s earlier Turning, leaving much of the interpretation to the listener. Nevertheless, the abstract concept of time moving constantly – whether slowly and with flux or insistently with purpose – is a unifying motive of the work.
The opening movement, set in a dreamlike andante, has two major components. The first is a motive presented at the work’s onset in solo euphonium: a longing semitone ascent that seems to repeatedly ask a question, the answer to which is never stated. This motive is imitated in other voices as they join in the chorale, including the trombones, who somewhat naively add a brushstroke of optimism with a playful glissando. Eventually the melody evolves into the second part of the movement – a sort of chaconne that descends incessantly. Elements are added juxtaposed against this descent, until a long and despairing melody emerges that shifts through orchestral colors from oboe through clarinet and eventually settling in flutes and trumpets. This spinning line metamorphoses back into the opening motive, set this time in reverse as it erodes away into only the solo euphonium. A final twofold statement of the chaconne closes the movement in ambiguity on a warm dissonance.
The second movement begins where the first ends – in harmonic ambiguity. The melody, which first appears in solo bassoon, answers the question of harmonic geography by firmly planting itself in a brooding minor key. Elements are added against the ostinato and at each cadence, the ensemble flares dynamically with visceral ferocity, becoming more insistent and violent with the conclusion of each phrase. This process is broken only twice, with the sonic environment resetting itself to a gentle pianissimo as the saxophones reinitiate the simple ostinato chord. After the third such major climactic moment, a brief coda closes the work by recalling the four-step descent that drove the first movement and alluding, perhaps subconsciously, to John Adams’ Lollapalooza with a frenzy of agitated syncopations and a tremendous terminal thwack of percussion and low woodwinds.
--- Program note by Jake Wallace