Nine-Tailed Fox

For clarinet, cello and piano (and stopwatch).

Nine-Tailed Fox is inspired on a well-known theme in East Asian mythology. Nine-tailed foxes, also referred to as fox spirits, are magical creatures with the ability to shapeshift into beautiful women. I read about these fox spirits for the first time in classic Chinese literature in 2020. When I came across the wood block prints by the Japanese artist Ogata Gekkō (1859-1920) one year later, I was charmed with how subtly and nuancedly he depicted these creatures.

The music uses a timing technique which enables the performers to explore the freedom and space they individually have. Within reasonable time limits, they are able to respond and interact intuitively, which allows them to play the music as organic and expressive as they see fit, without necessarily disturbing the freedom of other performers. It’s not a freedom caused by lack of restraints (possible chaos?) – it’s freedom caused by enabling the musicians, so they have the tools to achieve what they want (possible harmony?). Listening carefully and responding responsibly, that’s what it is about.

But suddenly in the middle of the piece, everything changes…

Woodblock print of the Nine-Tailed Fox, depicted/designed by Ogata Gekkou.