Riepe My Heart Out

“Three Studies on Flight,” by Russell Riepe – is a piece in and of itself.

[Side note, you know, that’s such an odd phrase, “a piece in and of itself.” Yes, it makes sense, but I find that it’s used, more often then not, in the incorrect form. For example, my usage of it here is not correct, at least, based upon the opinions and research I’m about to spew forth on these pages. Maybe I’m being too literal.]
At first run through of the work, I remember thinking to myself – GREAT I.C.A. picked a good one this year (note sarcasm). Each movement has a cutesy little name: “Your laughter frees me and lends me wings,” (my personal favorite) “I wandered lonely as a cloud,” and “Wild Spirit…moving everywhere.”
I’ve been working on this piece for a little bit now – and, I’m having the hardest damn time trying to locate the “LAUGHTER” in the first movement. I’m struggling to find the jovial qualities – because based on the harmonic and melodic structure, it sounds more anxiety ridden then jovial as though someone where screaming:
“I’M FLYING, I’M FREAKIN’ FLYING!!!!! LOOK AT ME, SEE ME, I’M FLYING!” (Note that phrase structures may vary a bit to the original, however they are relatively close)
Looking at it from a variety of angles, you can make some connection via the structural development in the triplet rhythm. Makes me think of the Weber’s F minor Concerto, where he jumps into triplets for 8 or 9 lines. I always used to think of that as laughter but structured…and with a phrase.
The concepts of flight are definitely there; along with the composers arch type painting and usage of some variant color (notably in the second movement). You definitely can feel the up and down motion of flying – almost to the point of motion sickness.
Just…can’t find the laughter. Where is it?
Found this little gem on YOUTUBE, Riepe’s “Three Studies on Flight”. The guy’s playing is nice, very stable with a good sense of control. There is a really evident ebb and flow which lends very well to the structure of the work, so bravo to him. My difficulty here in lies with the motivic development: more attention, grooming comes to mind for some reason, needs to be paid to linking common sections but at the same time also making them different.
When you’re flying in a plane, and the engines stop – you better pray they start up again; that’s sort of how I felt in this movement. Just go – albeit you need a breath, but the line goes – it’s not a classical or romantic piece, don’t worry about the listeners needing to breath – you’re flying!
Then…there’s the second movement. I think this is my favorite, seeing that I always feel like I’m wandering “lonely as a cloud.” My only gripe: if you’re going to use a variety of variant pitches, like 1/4 or 3/4 steps flat, then really integrate them – make them weave into the piece seamlessly. Shulamit Ran, brilliant composer by the way, may have been one of the best composers that systematically and eloquently intertwined extended technique in to her piece, “A Monologue.” And to this day, is probably one of my favorite pieces of music for clarinet.
Tangent. Sorry.
But, I will say that there are a few moments, in the second movement, where he uses open harmonics – which I think really lend well to the color and change, especially at the pianissimo dynamic marked. I think you’re suppose to feel this pseudo emptiness and many of those harmonic fingers have that sort of cavernous and lost timbre.
I can’t say much about what the youtube kid did except that I never felt like I was wandering or that I was ever really alone – more sort of rushed and quizative, as if to ask: “When’s lunch?”
I’ll save the last movement for another day. I want to practice way too much right now to finish. 🙂

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