The story of Drunken Boxing is a story of collaboration and friendship. Clarinetist Bixby Kennedy and composer Will Rowe have a long history together: They met while pursuing undergraduate degrees over a decade ago, performing together at school and even premiering one of Rowe’s early pieces, a mini ballet titled Hammer and Nail. After graduating, they both ended up in New York and reconnected, eventually discovering their shared love of performing miniature solo works. Drunken Boxing follows this passion—it’s a new miniature duet that Rowe wrote last year for Kennedy and his partner, the violist Emily Brandenburg.
Each artist has a different history with Metropolis Ensemble. Brandenburg’s involvement with the group began three years ago, when she worked on a variety of projects by violinist Emily Wells; Kennedy’s first performance with the group came during 2019’s Parallax concert; Rowe’s first foray with the ensemble is this House Music series video. The three artists are excited they could put a recording of this piece into the world, and grateful to Metropolis for making it possible.
Kennedy and Brandenburg recorded this rendition of Drunken Boxing over Thanksgiving and after painstakingly learning their complex parts. Here, Rowe writes music that’s intricate, exploring wild extended techniques and the ways the two parts intertwine and disconnect. It’s as if the two players are in a boxing match, swirling around each other until they snap together. The process of putting the music together happened entirely virtually, yet remained an incredibly enjoyable experience for the three artists. In the future, they hope to extend the piece to include other movements—each themed after a different unconventional sport. — Vanessa Ague