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The Folly

2019

Work on the opening of Ecclesiastes for Choir, Percussion, String quartet and solo Horn

The Folly

Instrumentation:

Choir, Percussion, String instruments, Horn

9 min 30 sec

Duration:

Program Note

      The general inspiration of this work began during my study abroad in New Zealand. I was in Christchurch on a Sunday and attended a local church that morning, and the pastor opened up to Ecclesiastes. This book reminded me of one of the darkest passages in the Bible that compelled me to write. Ecclesiastes was written by the king of Israel, Solomon. He was granted wisdom by God, and led his kingdom to much prosperity and power. However, after a while, he began despair. He realized that even after all his wisdom, he would soon die and the world would move on. He begins the book with a cry of anguish, saying,


Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? 4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. 5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. (Eccl. 1:2-5)


      After much deliberation, I only focused on the first chapters - wanting to capture the cyclical nature and mundane-ness of life that lead Solomon to despair. A sense of hopelessness and shock to the realization that life is meaningless. That isn’t Solomon’s ultimate conclusion to the problem, but it is within the scope I set of myself at this time.


      The beginning starts with a lot of instruments vamping a few phrases. The tempo, at 60 beats per minute, symbolized time. As the piece moves along, the instruments become more and more out of sync with the constant beat. Then the choir is cued in, one person at time, starting a speaking based on text from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes. This was to convey a cynical view of the circle of life. The voices then move to a sing-speaking section with a few aleatoric elements allowing for a smooth transition to traditional singing. The choir breaks into full singing on the phrase, vanity of vanities.


      I derived my melody, pitch material, and rhythmic content from natural speech. I recorded my own voice on a mobile app that would track the pitch. And for the rhythms, recorded them in a DAW, before quantizing them slightly. The rhythms began to smooth out, but I chopped down the pitches into little motives that I used to fuel the instrumental interlude.


      My instrumentation was inspire by the idea of having different choirs of instruments combined and interacting together. The high points of the piece are when these groups come together with one voice. The different ensembles were rehearsed separately, then haphazardly combined. The ensembles were four-part choir, string quartet, percussion ensemble, and horn solo. Each group were given aleatoric and extended techniques. The horn played multiphonics along with the bowed vibraphone for a very unique color. The choir went from speaking, sprechstimme, singing, and back to speaking. The strings played col legno, and various vamping areas to create an effect of chaos. The horn is brought in to change the style of the music from aleatoric to more traditional scoring, and it stays as a soloist throughout. The piece then ends like it begins with the choir, strings, and percussion creating an aleatoric cloud of noise.

Notable Performances

  • April 2019 at the University of Tulsa - conducted by Joshua Lowery and performed by TU students. 

Media Assets Available:

Status:  

Audio Recording, Sheet Music, Video Recording

Done

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