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A Guide to Understanding, Interpreting, and Performing David Bruce’s Gumboots for Clarinet (doubling Bass Clarinet) and String Quartet


David Bruce’s 2008 work, Gumboots, is a worthy and exciting addition to a small and select group of compositions. Along with the well-loved quintets of Brahms and Mozart, Weber, and a few more recent works such as Osvaldo Golijov’s Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, Gumboots offers a well-composed work with both musical, emotional, and social substance. The work is challenging and requires a very versatile and adept clarinetist who can ideally double on the bass clarinet (although it is not required). Music plays a significant role in mankind’s ability to convey emotional and profound ideas. Gumboots is a work that capitalizes on this capability. It is deserving of significant attention, being a joy to both listen to and play. Through communications with the composer and other performers familiar with the piece and by drawing on the author’s personal experiences in performing the work, this dissertation presents a thorough and detailed investigation of Gumboots to assist the future performer, or listener, in better understanding the work. It provides biographical background about the composer and the commission and composition of the piece; a detailed musical analysis focusing on how the compositional elements of the work support its emotional life; a chapter exploring a number of varied non-Western influences in the piece, including klezmer, early music, jazz, blues, and African dance; a discussion of all publicly available recordings of Gumboots (as of August 2017); and a chapter dedicated to performance practice issues and solutions for the clarinetist, string players, and the ensemble. David Bruce is an eclectic contemporary composer who will undoubtedly continue to make significant contributions to the world of classical music, and hopefully many more to the clarinet repertoire.

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