Ear Supply: Heart-Shaped Bach

Grunge inspires a band concerto.

It's the mood more than the music of the Seattle sound that's evoked by Texas composer Scott McAllister's 1996 Concerto X for clarinet and band—"heavily influenced," he writes, by grunge. In the first of its three brief, beguiling movements, random restless outbursts interrupt a somnambular repeating murmur in the low brass that calls to mind the heavy-lidded gaze of a thousand Kurt Cobain photos. The third is itchy and angsty, but always catchy. The concerto's emotional centerpiece is the middle movement: variations, in Bach passacaglia style, on the refrain from the old Appalachian folksong "In the Pines," which Nirvana (among others) recorded as "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" From the tread of Abbey Road's "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" to the melancholy air of a French accordion waltz, McAllister rings inventive changes on these eight lamenting bars. Clarinetist Sean Osborn plays Concerto X on Sunday with the Seattle Wind Symphony (alongside music by Bernstein, Gershwin, and more) to close the ensemble's inaugural season. 

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