The Interval of Shadow

for solo clarinet, 2012, duration: 10 minutes.

Scheduled to be premiered at ICA ClarinetFest 2012 in Lincoln Nebraska and then performed again on October 18, 2012 by Carl Cranmer at West Chester University, West Chester, Pennsylvania.

     Twilight is the time between dawn and sunrise or between sunset and dusk, during which sunlight scattering in the upper atmosphere illuminates the lower atmosphere, and the surface of the earth is neither completely lit nor completely dark. The sun itself is not directly visible because it is below the horizon. Owing to the distinctive quality of the ambient light at this time, twilight has long been popular with photographers and painters, who refer to it as the "blue hour", after the French expression l'heure bleue. Twilight is technically defined as the periods between sunset and sunrise during which there is natural light provided by the upper atmosphere, which receives direct sunlight and scatters part of it towards the earth's surface.

     I was smitten by a line from the Borges poem, “The History of the Night” – “We shall never know who forged the word for the interval of shadow”.  I used the imaginable but almost indefinable expression as a metaphor for musical gestures that freely move, sometimes suggesting direction and goal, sometimes simply evaporating.  The piece explores many images but never sits still.  In the end it allows the listener to re-enter when the listener came.

     The Interval of Shadow was composed for my friend and colleague, Karen Dannessa.



The History of the Night


Throughout the course of the generations

men constructed the night.

At first she was blindness;

thorns raking bare feet,

fear of wolves.

We shall never know who forged the word

for the interval of shadow

dividing the two twilights;

we shall never know in what age it came to mean

the starry hours.

Others created the myth.

They made her the mother of the unruffled Fates

that spin our destiny,

they sacrificed black ewes to her, and the cock

who crows his own death.

The Chaldeans assigned to her twelve houses;

to Zeno, infinite words.

She took shape from Latin hexameters

and the terror of Pascal.

Luis de Leon saw in her the homeland

of his stricken soul.

Now we feel her to be inexhaustible

like an ancient wine

and no one can gaze on her without vertigo

and time has charged her with eternity.


And to think that she wouldn't exist

except for those fragile instruments, the eyes.


      Jorge Luis Borges

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T   © Larry Nelson 2017