Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Response to a Lobster Effigy

     I have just completed a new group of piano pieces, a set of five etude-like musical aphorisms that collectively bear the title Holophrasms, and that offer a series of musical "responses" to five seemingly unrelated non-musical artworks, which are nonetheless bound by their depiction of various, deeply disturbing manifestations of the human condition. 
     The first piece owes its inspiration to photos of a Mayan lobster effigy recently on display at a Ft. Worth museum.  The image, which is truly fearsome to behold, evoked a plethora of psychological and cultural associations, and seemingly demanded that I respond compositionally.  The resultant piece, marked risoluto, is in 11/16, and contains a great deal of complex syncopation.  Pedal is used only sparingly.
     The inspiration for the second piece is a series of very compelling paintings, collectively referred to as the "Grand Institution" series, by Italian painter Patrice Giorda.  These big canvases structure themselves largely around superimposed rectangles that appeal to my long-standing fascination with the work of Hans Hofmann, another favorite painter who periodically exhibited signs of rectangle fixation.  To me, Giorda's paintings speak to the frustration of man with implacable institutions.  The music that arises from this potent imagery is marked maestoso, is in 7/8, and uses pedal a bit more freely.
     The third piece is entitled Euthyphro, a reference to the antagonist in the Socratic dialogue of Plato that bears his name, a work with which I have been entranced for decades.  This short, turbulent statement is marked agitato, and alternates between 5/16 and 7/16.
     The set's fourth piece deals with a scene from the great novel Cosmos by Witold Gombrowicz, and is entitled The hanged sparrow.  Long one of my very favorite novels, this enigmatic work deftly allegorizes the entire human condition through depictions of a series of mundane events and coincidences of imagined importance.  The music meant to honor this work is just under a minute of rhythmically complex, highly filigreed whimsy in 13/16.
     The set's final piece is inspired by Hiroshi Teshigahara's magnificent film Woman in the Dunes.  Titled Jumpei's Dilemma, this piece is marked furioso and returns to 11/16, one of my favorite time signatures.  I have previously indulged my fascination with the combinational potential of this time signature in Calligraphic Forms from The Spattered Hand, and also, more briefly, in Pyrrhic Suite.
     Holophrasms will run about eleven minutes, if played (as intended) in its entirety.  The collective difficulty level is extreme, largely due to its rhythmic content and structure. 

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