Explaining Explain Yourself!
2019-2020 Premiere Work by composer Viet Cuong
Explain Yourself! is a new work commissioned for the Poulenc Trio with support from the prestigious Barlow Endowment. Viet Cuong’s boisterous new composition pays homage the the joyous, witty nature of many of Poulenc’s works. Written for trio plus guest clarinet, in 2020 the Poulenc Trio will tour with the composer, Cuong, as featured clarinet soloist.
The piece is a sure fire crowd pleaser- written as a counterpart Poulenc’s 1926 Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano- it’s a high energy, rollicking romp, perfect for a premiere in 2019.
Audience members are in for a sound that they’ve never heard before: Explain Yourself features what must be the most multiphonic oboe notes ever written in a tonal chamber music work. Multiphonics are a special playing technique where oboist Alex Vvedensky will he heard to play multiple notes at once, similar to the ‘double-stop’ effect used by string instrumentalists. The multiphonic effect adds to the wild feeling that infuses the piece.
Notes from the Composer
“As a clarinetist and admirer of twentieth century French music, I’ve always loved the music of Francis Poulenc. I’m particularly drawn to the joyous, witty nature of many of his pieces, and, with this piece being for the Poulenc Trio (plus clarinet!), I wanted to pay homage to Poulenc and his sense of humor. As such, the piece actually begins with a direct quote of his chamber piano concert, Aubade. This quote serves a few purposes: it acts as a marker for when the first section “repeats” itself, and, perhaps more importantly, the main melody of the entire piece uses the same pitches as the opening of Aubade.
After the Poulenc quote, the piece jolts into a tango-like romp with a baroque flair. The instruments all play an equal role in this music and, all things considered, it’s pretty mild mannered. After a few minutes, the Aubade quote signifies a trip back to the beginning after the first climax concludes— much like a repeat in a classical symphony’s first movement. However, this repeat goes awry as the oboist begins to act out by replacing regular notes with raucous multiphonics. The other wind instruments begin to pick up on this mischievous behavior, and all three of them start to interrupt, mock, and distort the phrases. The pianist notices and isn’t pleased. Much like a frustrated parent or teacher, the pianist hammers out dense chords, essentially scolding the winds to get back on track.
Things nearly fall apart as the winds continue to misbehave. Eventually it all comes to a head when the pianist and oboist perform an imitative duet. In doing this, the oboist has a chance to explain himself and prove that, while these multiphonics can be funny, they can also be played melodically and provide structure to a phrase. Won over, the pianist joins in on the fun and the piece concludes in a place where functional classical harmonies and multiphonics can coexist.
This piece was commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University for the Poulenc Trio.”
Sample Program (2020-21 Season)
Viet Cuong’s boisterous new composition pays homage the the joyous, witty nature of many of Poulenc’s works.
Written for trio plus guest clarinet, in 2020 the Poulenc Trio will tour with the composer, Cuong, as featured clarinet soloist.
Poulenc - Trio
Poulenc - Sonata for oboe and piano
Cuong - Explain Yourself
- Saint-Säens - Sonata for bassoon and piano
- Beethoven - Trio, Op. 11
- Chau Paris Selection (Piazzolla, D’Rivera, Ellington, Gershwin)