Taxonomy for Flute and Clarinet in Bb

Sound Files





Program Notes

TAXONOMY consists of short movements for flute and clarinet. Each documents the characteristics of a particular snake genus. The ratsnakes of the genus elaphe have little in way of defense. They blur the patterns on their back by crawling fast. Elaphe, like the backs of the snakes it is named for, makes use of a repeated pattern, but this time, the pattern is sonic rather than optic. The clarinet begins this pattern alone but later it is "blurred" by heterophonic flute gestures. These flute gestures become the next pattern, which in turn is “blurred” by the clarinet. Throughout the work the listener, like a snake-eating predator, should be confused about who is doing what. Naja is the named for the genus for cobras, the elegant hooded snakes known for their powerful nuero-toxic venom. When displaying their hoods, cobras hold themselves erect before gracefully toppling over. The rising and falling of melodic lines depict this. A twice- articulated pitch separated by rests portrays the paralyzed breathing caused by the cobra's venom. Lampropeltus is the genus to which milksnakes and kingsnakes belong. Harmless to humans, kingsnakes eat other snakes. This movement of TAXONOMY uses that characteristic for its compositional basis. Similar musical lines chase and devour each other throughout this quick and slippery piece. Boids are boas and pythons. They least evolved. They primitive and slow... like Boidae. Stravinsky also primitive. Ooog. Crotalus offers commentary on the uniquely American, rattlesnakes. There is some hissing and rattling (no maracas!) and the piece is as funky as a pair of snake-skin boots, though this movement and the rest are completely cruelty- free.


"The appealing 'Taxonomy,' by Rusty Banks, evoked 

five varieties of snakes through coiling lines, airy hisses 

and iridescent microtonal wobbles on flute and clarinet."

--Steve Smith, New York Times