In his 2002 film, „The Gangs of New York“ Martin Scorsese portrays the ongoing clashes between the locals and the Irish immigrants in the New York of the 1860’s. The scene of the bloody conflicts is the area in central, lower Manhattan, the “Five Points”. These finger-shaped intersections form a veritable melting pot for the different cultures that settle there.
In my clarinet quintet „The Five Points“, the disputes are not those to be discharged with weapons, but rather, the formal design is strained between contrast and analogy in the five movements of the piece, each with its own distinctive characteristic; a melting pot of diverse musical forms. The whole can be thought of as a promenade between the five corners of the “Five Points”, where the different gangs were based.
I structured the length of the individual movements after Leonardo Fibonacci’s series, introduced in 1202, where each successive number is generated by the addition of the two preceding ones. The movements are organized so that the shortest (55 seconds) begins and the additional movements increase continually in length, with the exception of the longest (377 seconds) occupying 4th, instead of last, place. The Fibonacci series includes good approximations to the Golden Rule, and the ratios of the lengths of the five movements can be described as triple the Golden Rule. Through the freedoms which I have allowed myself in the implementation of this scheme, one is brought back from the ideal world of numbers to our more mundane reality (the bottom of the “Five Points).
Predisposed ears will recognize, at a few points in the last three movements, hidden references to the Clarinet Quintet, Op. 115 by Johannes Brahms, composed in 1891. It was a pleasure for me to “bend” my musical language here and there, so that in the tribute to the great composer, the Brahms allusions (never quoted verbatim) could flow in and dissolve again organically.
Finally, I built in a „happy“ place in the 3rd movement, exactly there, where I was writing when my first grandson, Basil, was born in August of 2012. It is based on the melody fragment B-A-Es (B-flat-A-E-flat).
„The Five Points“ is dedicated to Matthias Müller and the Galatea Quartet, to my most important composition teacher, Rudolf Kelterborn and to my grandson, Basil.