is a composition for solo clarinet
and chamber ensemble
by the American composer John Adams
. The London Sinfonietta
and Present Music
) co-commissioned the work. The work received its premiere at the Queen Elizabeth Hall
on October 19
, 1996 with the London Sinfonietta
and Michael Collins
as solo clarinetist
, and the composer conducting. The work received its first Proms
performance on 23 July 1998, conducted by Markus Stenz. The New York City
premiere was in October 1997, with David Shifrin as the clarinet soloist and Ransom Wilson conducting musicians of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
is composed of three movements
, with the following titles:
- I. The Perilous Shore
- II. Hoedown (Mad Cow)
- III. Put Your Loving Arms Around Me
In addition to the solo clarinet, the work is scored for thirteen musicians, including a banjo player (who doubles on mandolin and guitar), several double reeds, a trombone, piano, two sampling keyboards (loaded with samples that include accordion, clarinet, and cow), and solo strings. Adams has said that “The three movements are each based on a 'forgery' or imagined musical model.” He has also stated that Gnarly Buttons was influenced in part by his father’s passing due to Alzheimer's disease.
Adams has provided a short explanation for the title, but it is likely that he chose the title more because he liked its sound than for any specific meaning. Titles of other pieces by Adams also reflect this trend, notably his string sextet Shaker Loops and the orchestral piece Fearful Symmetries.
- May, Thomas. The John Adams Reader (ISBN 1-57467-132-4)
- Taylor, Anthony G. "John Adams's 'Gnarly Buttons': Issues of History, Performance and Style." Doctoral document, University of Cincinnati, 2007. Electronic library access at: http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd/view.cgi?ucin1185548983