The virtuoso performer-composer: Brigid Burke's contribution to the clarinet repertoire

Katherine Smith

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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This thesis takes as its broad area of study the solo instrumental music produced since 1960 by the virtuoso performer-composer, and focuses on the works of Australian clarinettist and composer Brigid Burke. The 1960's in music was a decade like no other; the effects of serialism and indeterminacy, the rise of electronic music, and the general climate of experimentation resulted in an explosion of new musical ideas and compositional approaches. One development of this period was the growth of a musician type new to the twentieth century: the virtuoso performer-composer. Brigid Burke (1960- ) is a clarinet soloist, visual artist and a composer of over one hundred works. The majority of Burke's compositional output comprises works for clarinet. In writing almost exclusively for the clarinet, the instrument of which she is a national and international performer, Burke can be viewed as continuing the virtuoso performer-composer trend emanating from the 1960's. The aim of this thesis is to investigate the extent to which Burke's clarinet works represent a unique voice in the international and Australian contemporary clarinet repertoire. Four of Burke's works were chosen for study: Three Sounds on Buildings 2 (2005), "Gestures" from Suite for B-flat clarinet and piano (1999) Grey is a Highway (2003), and Where is the Mode (2002). These works were chosen according to the following criteria: 1) The clarinet must play a soloistic role within the piece. Therefore the scope of this study has been limited to works for unaccompanied clarinet and clarinet with small ensemble (i.e. four players or less) Works for clarinet and piano, large ensembles including clarinet, or small ensembles without clarinet have not been considered. 2) The selected pieces must as a whole represent a cross section of Burke's works for clarinet, keeping within the parameters set out in 1). 3) In order to aid the author's analysis with an accurate performance realisation, works were chosen which have been recorded by Burke and her ensembles. A review of the literature pertaining to the post-1960 performer-composer trend, post-1960 clarinet performer-composers, and Brigid Burke, is presented in chapter one. Chapter two presents a survy of the post-1960 virtuoso performer-composer trend, with a focus on clarinettist performer-composers from this period, and provides the context for the later evaluation of Burke's contribution to the clarinet repertoire. Chapter three presents an overview of Burke's life and works, and chapter four provides an overall picture of Burke's contribution to the clarinet repertoire through the analysis of the four chosen works. Chapter five draws on the information presented in the previous chapters to conclude that Burke's clarinet repertoire as a whole does represent a unique contribution to the Australian and international clarinet repertoire through its contribution to the scope and continual development of clarinet multimedia music, and to the repertoire exploring clarinet technique and sound resources.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008


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