Edmund Welles

Edmund Welles

 Oakland, California, USA

We are the world's only original, composing band of four bass clarinetists. We invent and perform Heavy Chamber Music. Our dense, pulsating sound utilizes virtuosic precision, innovative rhythmic texture, power, and rock perspective, resulting in vibrational fictions of lucid dementia.


Edmund Welles: the bass clarinet quartet has the distinction of being the world's only original, composing band of four bass clarinetists, they invent and perform heavy chamber music. The bass clarinet has a 5-octave range and a huge span of tonal, melodic, and rhythmic capabilities.

Since 1996, Cornelius Boots has led and composed for Edmund Welles, which received a Chamber Music America Grant in 2004 for the creation of Agrippa's 3 Books, a multi-movement work inspired by occult philosophy and heavy metal music. This piece is featured on their debut album of the same title [mixed and mastered by Grammy-award winning sound alchemist Oz Fritz]. The album was named on the Top Ten Albums of 2005, and the New York premiere of the piece made the Top Ten Performances of 2005 in All About Jazz NYC. The title track of their second album, Tooth & Claw, placed 2nd out of thousands of entries in the "Instrumental" category of the 2006 International Songwriting Competition. In 2007, The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco commissioned the group to compose and perform 2012: A Requiem for Baktun 12 [the 13th and Final Cycle].

In 2008, the quartet was a featured ensemble at the International Clarinet Convention in Kansas City in addition to sharing a bill with the innovative "rock against rock" power-ensemble Sleepytime Gorilla Museum at several California venues. As their influence grows, Edmund Welles continues to be sought out for cutting edge music festivals and series including Three Drops of Blood (Installments II and IX), Switchboard Music Festival, and Hornucopia. There have also been several acolyte bass clarinet quartets (such as Acid Bass in New York) crop up around the globe over the last 3 years, playing both Edmund Welles arrangements and innovative pieces of their own. Engendering enthusiasm and expanding the musical horizons of both clarinetists and the general non-clarinet-playing public is at the core of the ensemble's existence.

Drawing virtuosic precision from the classical realm; innovation and texture from jazz; and power, rhythm and overall perspective from rock and metal, the quartet's sound is characterized by a thickness of tone, a density of texture, absolute rhythmic precision, and the extreme use of dynamic contrasts: a dense, pulsing sound capable of expressing and reflecting the full range of human emotions. The quartet is like Tony Iommi, Wendy Carlos, Les Claypool and Howlin Wolf playing blackjack against Eric Dolphy. It was originally founded on two principles: the bass clarinet can achieve a virtually unlimited range of sounds, and when this same instrumental voice is multiplied, it can be as powerful as a boogie woogie piano, a gospel quartet or a rock band. Indeed the very first arrangements were of the Swan Silvertones, Montana Taylor and the Pixies. The originals compositions have evolved into a style unique unto themselves while maintaining a stylistic consistency at their core, and the arrangements conquered by the quartet now include Black Sabbath and Sepultura songs.


Imagination Lost (2011)
Tooth & Claw (2007)
Agrippa's 3 Books by Edmund Welles (2005)
muzak for devils: selected works (2003)

Set List

We play one and two-set shows.
Our song types break down roughly into 5 categories:
1) Originals that are hard rockers, often with extended forms: 3-6 minutes each.
2) Originals that are ballads: 2-4 minutes each.
3) Originals that are movements of larger works, these include minimalist/trance pieces and avant jazz works: movements are 4-9 minutes each.
4) Covers/arrangements that are rock or pop songs including songs by Black Sabbath, Sepultura, Spinal Tap, Primus, the Pixies, Duran Duran, the Residents, Nirvana, Sinead O'Connor, and Radiohead.
5) Covers/arrangements that are extremely varied from TV theme songs to Renaissance motets, boogie woogie piano, hard gospel and blues.

Typical set List for one 55 minute set:

Seventh Furnace (CB: 5')
Synge (CB: 4')
Elsie's Rain (CB: 3.5')
I.Z.T. (CB: 5')
Plasmosis (CB: 7')
Into the Void (Sabbath 6')
Trap Panel (CB: 3')
Rabies (CB: 4')
Passive Illumination (CB: 3')
Asmodeus: The Destroyer, King of the Demons (CB: 9')