Rippling Waters on Birch Lake

English Horn, Clarinet, and Piano

After the world premiere screening of the short film “The Runners,” for which I wrote the soundtrack, I was approached by one of my close friends and cabin mates at Interlochen, M. Isaac Ripple. He asked if I would write him a piece similar to the soundtrack for English horn, clarinet, and piano—a quirky little trio, I thought. I still think it’s quirky, but nonetheless a fascinating combination of instruments. As the school year progressed, I came up with a few ideas here and there, struggling mostly with finding the balance for a piece of this instrumentation. The real challenge is finding a balance between the thin glow of the clarinet and the rounder sound of the English horn, and trying to find a way for them to coexist atop the atmospheric timbre of the piano. 

Musically, this piece is quite simple, a nice ABA setup. I was greatly inspired by Estonian minimalist composer Arvo Pärt and his piece “Spiegel im Spiegel." In particular, I was taken with Pärt's use of "tintinnabuli," a technique he developed that I have tried incorporating into my own work. While my piece probably would not be classified as minimalist, Pärt's compositional style helped me find the perfect placement of the delicate right hand chords in the piano over the “rippling” movement in the left hand, and thus formed the foundation for the piece. The entire time I was writing the piece, I couldn’t help but think of the wonderful times my family and I have spent at our new lake home, on a small inland lake in southwestern Michigan, Birch Lake. Canoe rides to Camp Tannadoonah, camp fires till three in the morning; star gazing on the pier; and by October seeing the leaves fly in billows across the placid waters. I would imagine as I composed the leaves falling onto the water, creating ripples (thus inspiring the title of the piece, which coincidentally includes the last name of my dear friend Isaac). Ideally, this piece is meant to let the audience reminisce on old times, on the warm days of summer, to bring them to a place of contemplative serenity. For me, this place is Birch Lake. 

J.W.G. II