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Blue Work

Three Sibilants for E flat clarinet

Year:  2008   ·  Duration:  11m 30s

Year:  2008
Duration:  11m 30s

Composer:   Robbie Ellis

Films, Audio & Samples

Robbie Ellis: Three Sibilan...

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Robbie Ellis: Three Sibilan...

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Sample Score

Sample: Pages 4, 7, and 11-12

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To borrow or hire parts please email SOUNZ directly at Please note that only library members in New Zealand and Australia can borrow or hire parts.


In phonetics, a sibilant is a type of fricative consonant, or a consonant you can hold by constant airflow. Sibilants are made by placing the tongue towards the sharp end of the teeth and passing air through the small gap – in English, the sibilants we know are ‘s’, ‘z’, ‘sh’ and ‘zh’.

I’ve always felt that the gestures involved in enunciating a word are little different to the gestures involved in sounding a note or playing a phrase on a musical instrument, so why separate them in performance? I came up with three nonsense words starting with the letter ‘s’: “skornk” (pronouncing the ‘r’ quite strongly); “soh” (with the same vowel as in ‘sock’); and “stup” (with the same short vowel as in ‘took’).

The three short pieces are derived from these nonsense words. Skornk is quite brash and boisterous, bringing out a driving, zany quality in the Eb clarinet. Soh is restful, with long and slow-developing phrases that make for a gentle arc in the piece. Stup draws on the rhythms of funk, hip hop and rap, requiring the performer to multi-task as a clarinettist, vocalist and multi-limbed percussionist all at once.

Acknowledgement goes to everyone at the Nelson Composers Workshop, particularly Ross Harris and - of course - the ever willing and ever wonderful Anna McGregor.

Commissioned note

Commissioned by Anna McGregor

Anna McGregor

Dedication note

Dedicated to Anna McGregor

Contents note

I. Skornk; II. Soh; III. Stup

Performance history

27 Jul 2008: Emerging Artists