review

The Roaring Whirl: CD

This review was published on: January 1st 2020
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THE ROARING WHIRL
Music by Sarah Rodgers
Geraldine Allen (clarinet)
Metier/Divine Art Recordings

This CD represents a triumph. It was recorded in 1992 but released only this year due to a car accident and drawn-out recovery interrupting clarinettist Geraldine Allen’s career. It could have been released earlier, but Allen was keen to get better first so that she could perform the music live when it came out. She has now finally achieved this – a mere 27 years later.

The Roaring Whirl is a single multi-movement work by Sarah Rodgers, its title taken from Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. (You can read more about the work’s origins on page 52 in an article contributed by Allen herself.) The music features alternating narrator and clarinet, supported by sitar and tabla. A guitar is also part of things, blending in stylistically with the sitar. Like Indian classical music, the feeling created by this gentle hour is not one of huge contrast, but if you jump randomly between tracks you realise that it does in fact span a range of moods, gradually shifting rather than springing surprises mid-flow.

The clarinet is a counterpart to the narration, and both voices trace lines that refer repeatedly to familiar motifs and shapes against evolving backdrops. I listened to the CD a few times and did not take in the meaning of the narrator’s words, instead hearing the narration as an instrumental solo. Allen’s clarinet playing is liquid, generous and totally inside the music; she is the second narrator.

We live in a time of raging debate around such matters as cultural appropriation, but in 1992 the current punishing attitude towards western artists ‘borrowing’ from nonwestern cultures was yet to take root. One can sense a certain innocence in this recording, which journeys guilelessly through an Indian-inspired soundscape redolent of exotica, meditation and romantic adventure. This makes the listening experience a pleasure, and since The Roaring Whirl is available on Spotify as well as in physical form, the minimal effort involved in finding it is more than justified.

Chris Walters

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The Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 3010228, whose registered office is at Flat 51, Parkview Apartments, 122 Chrisp Street, London, E14 6ET. Email: membership(@) cassgb.org. Tel: 01642 769 558

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