Clarinet Threads (1985) (for clarinet and electroacoustic sounds)

Denis Smalley

Centre for Electroacoustic Music Studies
Music Department
City University


The clarinet can produce a variety of sound-types - key noises, air sounds, degrees of sound production producing less definite pitches, very high notes produced by biting the reed, multiphonics. The electroacoustic medium provides an opportunity for integrating this sound repertory into an expanded sonic environment. Thus the clarinet is threaded through the electroacoustic fabric, sometimes merged with it, sometimes surfacing in a more soloistic role. Besides passages which use the clarinet in a traditional manner there are stylised environments drawn from outside music - the calls and cries of nature, the movement of wind and water, and textural motion suggesting floating and drifting.

Most of the electroacoustic sounds were created during visits to a variety of studios in the early 1980s - the Computer Systems Research Institute at the University of Toronto (the SSSP system), the Finnish Radio Experimental Studio, the Groupe de Recherches Musicales Digital Studio, and the University of Birmingham Electroacoustic Music Studio. Mixing was carried out at the University of East Anglia. 'Clarinet Threads' was commissioned by Roger Heaton with funds provided by Eastern Arts, England, and was first performed in the Norwich and Norfolk Festival in 1985. In 1988 it was awarded the Prix Ars Electronica.