Clave for Katherine

for mandolin, cello, and xylophone

premiered December 14, 2013
Joti Rockwell, mandolin; Tom Flaherty, cello; Maurissa Dorn, xylophone

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Pomona College Music Department Professor Katherine Hagedorn passed away in November 2013, at the tragically young age of 52. In December, the community gathered for a celebration of the bright light she shone on the department, the college, the field of ethnomusicology, and indeed all who met her. Some of her many accomplishments are listed here.

Dedicated to her memory, Clave for Katherine is based on a rhythmic pattern that all of her colleagiues associate with her, a pattern that has rung through the halls of the Pomona Music Department for the 20 years since her arrival in 1993. The clave rhythm used in West African and Afro-Cuban music is the backbone of much of the music that Katherine loved, and she played and danced with it every week. The clave rhythm is played here on the xylophone.

Although the clave rhythm repeats without variation, its ambiguous meter is heard sometimes in groups of 3 and sometimes in groups of 4 units, of varying sizes. In this piece the xylophone part can be heard variously in 12/8, 3/4, 6/8, or 12/16.

The musical letters in Katherine's name, Katherine Johanna Hagedorn (h = B in German nomenclature), make a complete pentatonic set, a collection of pitches nearly universal in musical cultures across the globe. The clave/xylophone plays these pitches once through, in the order found in her name. The mandolin and cello parts repeat the same pitches, in the same order throughout.

I wrote the piece with particular performers in mind: Joti worked closely with Katherine from the beginning of his tenure at Pomona, and Maurissa was the student closest to her in recent years. I like to think Katherine would enjoy the confluence of music she loved and people who loved her.




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