Fugitive Horizons
For Clarinet solo (2016)
by Ron Hannah

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Duration: about 8 minutes

     What would it take to make you leave your home and your country, to bundle up your family and whatever you can carry and venture hundreds of kilometers on foot over hostile lands, and then over dangerous waters in an overcrowded boat? What would make you so desperate as to entrust to smugglers your remaining money, your very children; to be loaded along with them onto that boat whose engines might well fail somewhere out there and leave you stranded, or worse? It is difficult for me to imagine how one could be driven to such a decision since I have never lived in a war zone. I have never had a bomb fall through my roof, never seen the remains of my friends and loved ones splattered on the wall, never been left deaf and lacerated after such an event. What must this do to a child, or an adult?


  


     Living in Austria during the so-called migrant crisis, when refugees from Syria, from Afghanistan, from Africa, from so many places rendered hellish and unliveable by war and famine, Andrea and I were moved to try to help. Before the borders were closed, we filled several bags with clothes and blankets to contribute, and went to the Hungarian frontier to help sort through the tons of donated items and hand them out to these miserable ones. The most commonly requested item was shoes, but there were none to give. I feel badly still that I did not give one young man the boots from my own feet when I saw how much he was in need of them. It did not occur to me at the moment. Still, I was able to make a little girl smile by giving her a colourful wool hat. The man who was looking after her had little English, but he did manage to say, pointing to her, "Mother. Dead." How does one respond to that? Later we helped collect bedding from hundreds of cots in a makeshift centre for new arrivals, all the while feeling helpless and not like we were accomplishing anything - well, that's how I felt anyway.

     This piece for clarinet is a response to that experience, however ineffectual - it is my way. Here are 8 vignettes, each expressing, I hope, a feeling that a refugee might have upon gazing across another border, or across the sea to some island where there might be rest at last - or yet more stumbling forward. A person caught up in this nightmare might experience hope, or anger, or fear, or resignation, or... I have only numbered each one and not tried to identify its mood. I am leaving that to the hearer. Please reflect as you listen on what it would take, and how you would feel, if you found yourself in such a dire situation.

     You may obtain the score by clicking on the button above, and listen to a computer-generated version of it too (my only request being that if you perform this work, that you inform me of the date and location of the performance so that I can keep my performances page up-to-date). A first for me in this piece is the use of multiphonics. Their harsh and indeterminate sounds seemed appropriate to the horrors that I am trying to express. Fingerings for clarinet multiphonics can be found at this link (click on "Database). Fugitive Horizons will require a strong technique from the player, and great sensitivity, such as I witnessed at a concert given by clarinettist Michel Lethiec. It happened that his concert coincided with my having already started writing this very piece, and even though I did not meet him in person, his performance suggested several new directions I might explore, and the score is dedicated to him.


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