02/16/16 – New York, NY – Recitation Tomb (3 baritones and 2 perc.)
PREMIERE – Elebash Recital Hall at the GC – Ensemble C4 and The Curiosity Cabinet
Perry Townsend, Brian Mountford, David See; baritones
Ellery Trafford, Joe Tucker; percussion
Martha Sullivan; conductor
Ezra Pound’s poem The Tomb at Akr Caar depicts the presence of a soul or perhaps the perspective of time. The quality of isolation and suppression found in this poem struck me as fit for homogeneous musical ensembles, especially whereby two groups are at odds with one another while attempting to fuse at the same time. This piece is also a response to Georges Aphergis’ Recitations for solo voice, and utilizes rhythmic material from Recitations eleven and fourteen as well as pitched material from Recitation four. Accumulation of these materials (for instance the pyramid shape of Recitation eleven) is further pronounced, in Recitation Tomb by a slowly descending series of dyads throughout the first part of the piece, effectively burying the vocal range in the low register. Pound’s poem deals with aspects of decay, in such a way that a reading of his poem isn’t much different from running one’s fingers along the remains of hieroglyphs from an unearthed tomb, in an attempt to decipher the words in greater detail. Here bits and pieces of text have fallen to the ground, the voices pass the words around in fragments, although following the original linear arc of Pound’s poem a sense of decoding these cryptic words permeates this setting. The feeling of accumulation in Aphergis’ Recitations is here reconfigured and fragmented, whereby a simplicity of pitch and timbre attribute to a static yet accumulating development through which the voices are affectively “buried” in a tomb themselves.
Waxen retains material from a previously composed duet of mine for violin and viola entitled Cantus. Both the sound world and technique of arpeggiating over the open strings is here composed in a more rigorous manner transformed from a formerly improvised texture to one that is more controlled. Waxen also strives to rework the form of the baroque minuet; the traditional form: I, II, I, III, I da capo is reconstructed by way of misplaced repetitions and eliding material. This scheme is additionally interrupted by an interlude and bagatelle. This “trite” dance form consisted of quick steps and jumps performed at court, and was often found at the tail-end of baroque dance suites as a sort of palate cleanser. The transformation of this dance in Waxen engenders (I hope) a more current and personal expression of the minuet form.
Brossard Dictionary (1703) Minuet definition:
“…a kind of dance, the steps whereof are extremely quick and short, it consists of a coupe, a high step and a balance; it begins with a beat, and its motion is triple…”
Currently working on a new piece for Clarinet and Bassoon duet entitled …ist gang verderbt (is completely corrupted) for friends Zachary Good and Benjamin Roidl-Ward. The score and recording will be posted once they are finished, see below for program notes and more specifics that may be of interest, enjoy!
Passus “having suffered” is a word describing the musical affect that J.S. Bach undertakes in his chorale prelude for organ solo “Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt” (through Adam’s fall is all corrupt), which was a popular hymn (written by Lazarus Spengler) set by Bach and many of his contemporaries to music for congregational singing. Though the text describes salvation, Bach’s work is highly chromatic with meandering and serpentine figures above a bass line that descends by the dissonant interval of a 7th over and over again. In this duet for clarinet and bassoon, Bach’s sound-world is alluded to and makes up most of the palette throughout a set of 12 chorale variations. These variations elide into my own harmonization of this famous chorale by way of a tremulant, a device on a pipe organ that varies the wind supply to the pipes creating a trembling and variable sound. In essence, my re-imagining of this chorale retains much of the affect of the original, yet I’m not aiming for an overtly despondent tone. The Fibonacci sequence of numbers: (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21) dictate many of the proportions of this duet as well as interrupting some of the larger scale events taking place. Just as the spirals inside of a seashell correspond to the proportions of Fibonacci numbers, I have in this duet created a natural shell that has broken, fractured and collapsed on itself. Perhaps one could imagine a beach covered in such rubble and wreckage following Spengler’s last stanza. “For my feet your holy word is a blazing lantern, a light that shows me the way forward; as this morning star rises…”
The Emissary Quartet (flute quartet) will be playing a newly wrought arrangement of my piece Wedge originally for flute trio on April 20, check out their website above for more specifics. Below is a performance of Wedge taken during my senior recital at the Oberlin Conservatory, enjoy!