Ryan Mihaly



[E] Mud cracks when it dries, texturing the earth. Tears leave streaks when they dry, texturing the face. And water, thrown from a warm vessel, turns to vapor in the freezing air, texturing it before disappearing. Low E's three fingerings each evoke one of these transformations. Low E also gives clairvoyance, though only to very distant times, so distant they are thought to be indecipherable dreams and are often discarded as nonsensical. A clarinetist wishing to see the meaning of these visions should sit barefoot and bare-bottomed in the mud during springtime and plunge all ten fingers—as they are all in use for Low E—into the wet earth, remove them and let the mud dry until text saturates the hands. Then read the hands.



[G# / A♭] Unstable and agitated, Low G# cringes its way through the clarinet's body and out through the bell, disturbed like a swath of earth casting off the acres of tar and brick laid over it, sickened like a body rejecting a foreign organ. Low A♭, using the exact same fingering, is heavenly-sweet, peaceful, a solitary heron in winter slowly cutting the air to swim in the silver lake, shimmering. The clarinet is like a deep well: some spend their days dropping rocks into it, just to hear the silence of the abyss; others hear their voices gloriously magnified when they sing into it. The difference between G# and A♭ depends entirely on the way the clarinetist approaches this darkness.



[G] Low G is symmetrical. The little fingers are not in use. However: remove your hands from the clarinet and see you are signing two I's. The two I's are you. A mirror can be used to produce an image of yourself in reverse, a distortion, yet this misleading "I" is satisfactory for confirming the reality of the true "I" you think you are. Low G is the mirror, reversing everything around it except for itself. A mirror before another mirror creates infinite mirrors; far into this endless repetition is darkness where the imagination runs free. Two clarinetists playing this pitch together will produce the same thing, aurally. Other instrumentalists will ask to tune to your Low G: you, the clarinetist, are their tonal mirror, to which they adjust their necks, turn pegs, tighten or loosen their lips.



[B] Ease into B the way a needle would into skin. To use your tongue as a needle you need to change the way you feel the tongue. Chew the seeds of a hot pepper. The seeds turn your tongue into a surface that water burns. Swish water around the tongue and swallow. As your tongue sizzles, speak under your breath. Speak so softly you appear to be mouthing promises to God. Now breath is a surface, too, under which you mutter your words, under which the fragility of B is revealed. It may be fragile, but that does not mean it can't be loud. If not a needle, think the other way around: blood seeping out of cracked skin, passing slowly from the veins up to the surface, coloring the hand in lurid reds.



[D] There is a woman named Angela Pralini. She lives on a nondescript street in a novel in Rio de Janeiro and imagines herself a vibrant and crystalline burst of clarinet. She writes a letter to a poet in Chile named Vicente Huidobro, asking him, what will the Last Judgment sound like? She translates his reply: "Guttural violins accompanied by piano and winds thrashing God." She shows these words to the young man who spends his nights sleeping under the awning of a bank, ignored by passersby and police alike, who looks three times his age, wearing a cross around his neck. He sits up from beneath his blanket of newspapers and whispers, "Execration for the dead who do not see...!" and goes back to sleep. This man is your index finger, Angela your thumb, Vicente your middle finger, obscene yet indispensable.



[E] Vision: a bed, night; main roads closed; snow; moon full and haloed—soft glow of faces; words eagerly spilling out of mouths; memory lodged in a wall; silence of space through which eyes seek eyes; fingers enmeshed in space between fingers—hair loosened into heart; hair curling into and out of colors—footfall—flinch; blinked tears; cold wind; color of sky curling hair into footfall—silences growing; silver thread; free, fine weave—laugh-flash of teeth; gleaming skin; children laughing—bite? silence; kiss? rabbit rushing into brush; blameless God watching listlessly, wanting to intervene more directly; moon suddenly making midday appearance.





A young piano student recently interrupted a lesson to inform me on the origin and makeup of tennis balls. He stood up from the bench and started pacing the room, lecturing me about sheep's wool, synthetic fibers, and how lawn tennis forced a change in material entirely. A few weeks later, he began the lesson with a discussion of trinomial squares before we approached "Amazing Grace." These pieces adopt a similar approach to learning the clarinet. Here, the roaming, imaginative mind > technique.