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June 5, 7p

Dixie Center for the Arts

212 N Vienna St, Ruston, LA 71270

[Livestream Link]

Program

Fragment 96: Atthis by Jake Landau (New York)

 

Flight and Song (Exozoology I) by Kari Besharse (Louisiana)

 

In Truth's Day-Star by Charlie Carroll (Florida)

 

Feathered Echoes by Jeremi Edwards (Louisiana)

 

Dislocated by Stephen Montalvo (Louisiana)

 

The Inner Sea by Alex Shapira (Texas)

Notes

“Fragment 96” by Sappho (Translated by Emily Garber, 2018): “You are like a famous goddess, Rejoicing well in your dancing, Now you stand out among Lydian women As sometimes, when the sun has set, The rosy-fingered moon, Outshining all stars. And the light Spreads on the salt sea, And equally on the flowery fields, And the dew is beautifully spread, And the roses bloom with the tender herbs And the flowering honey-clover. Often she is remembering you, wandering, gentle, Atthis, with longing. I believe in her tender heart she is consumed by your fate.” Over the course of “Fragment 96”, it is revealed that the obsessive love the narrator holds for the woman Atthis is, like any obsession, really all about herself. Focus shifts for the narrator as the guise of repeated “you”s becomes “I”s and one harmonic landscape peels away to reveal another secretly operating the whole time. The melody of the work is made up of repeating fragments, “hooks” ascribed to specific words, syntactical structures, and dramatic images. I generated these fragments by first composing one long melody for the words as written out, through-composed, then using musical ideas to link these smaller units together, creating meaning through repetition and association. I had the joy of working directly with the translator of this Sappho text, Emily Garber, to ensure that every word was chosen for maximum musicality: for instance, emphasizing the repetitive “And the” structure for the images of light, dew, and roses. I initially requested that the term “rosy-fingered” be retranslated into something more pleasant to sing, but Emily pointed out the significance of the specific phrase “rosy-fingered”, how in oral story-telling certain ideas are inextricably linked to brief descriptors to facilitate retention. “Rosy-fingered” is one such epithet of sorts used exclusively to describe the dawn; Sappho’s use of it in this text to describe the moon is therefore very significant and had to be retained. This pairing of nouns with epithets, structurally integral in the oral canon, enormously influenced the composition of this piece, which pairs dramatic concepts with musical “epithets”. For example, a fun one to follow is the bass drum heard every time the word “You” is sung, or the descending scale of “wandering, gentle” leading all the way down to “Atthis”.


I have been dreaming of alien life since I was a child. Perhaps I’ve watched and read too much sci-fi. Perhaps my father taught me too much about biology, evolution, and zoology on Earth and we spent far too much time looking in remote streams and caves for different types of salamanders. The truth is, our own planet is so rich in biodiversity, with so many types of animals that can live anywhere from the ice in the polar regions to the deepest depths of the oceans. Biologists on Earth have discovered the concept of convergent evolution. This is the idea that unrelated organisms will develop certain features and functions depending on the conditions in which they develop. They develop to fill specific niches, which is why the hummingbirds of the Americas and the sunbirds of Southeast Asia both developed long beaks to sip nectar from flowers although they are not closely related. Although we won’t see birds on extra-solar worlds, if the conditions are right, we will see flying creatures. They may not have feathers, hollow bones, and a syrinx, but they will fly. They will catch smaller aliens to eat or devour alien fruits or seeds. They will communicate. Maybe they will sing. Maybe they will have a syrinx like Earth birds, or maybe they will have a built-in organ more akin to a percussion ensemble. “Flight and Song” features several species of newly-invented (by myself and others) bird-like aliens, such as the Trappist Neon Mote Catcher, the Giant Land Strider, the New Laconian Sunbird, and the Deathwatch Aviar that resides on Drominad First of the Sun.

Set to Edgar Allan Poe’s short poem “A Dream,” In Truth’s Day-Star explores both the complex emotional spectrum as well as the very notion of reality for someone who has experienced the pain of “joy departed.” For in sleep the speaker is harangued by “visions of the dark night” which bring torturous memories of a sweeter past; but while awake, the abject emptiness of everyday life without this lost joy has proven heartbreaking and utterly intolerable. The speaker then poses the central question: “What is not a dream. . . to him whose eyes are cast. . . with a ray turned back upon the past?” It seems to me that, in the end, the speaker would rather abide in the heavenly realm of memory than to suffer the unbearable “waking dream of life and light.” Perhaps, then, what constitutes our lived “realities” is little more than the unseen inward worlds in which we choose to dwell.

 

"Feathered Echoes" is a musical exploration inspired by the diverse avian life of Louisiana. I wanted to create a sonic canvas that beautifully integrates the unique timbres of each instrument, enhancing the evocative power of the bird-inspired composition.the interplay between woodwinds and strings mirrors the dynamic interactions found in nature.

Dislocated is an exploration of the forgotten, lost, and discarded artifacts that populate our lives. Performers are encouraged to seek out found objects from diverse locations such as attics, crawl spaces, hiking trails, thrift stores, lost and found boxes, and similar forgotten corners of our world. These discarded items, each with their own story, carry with them echoes of the past, serving as silent witnesses to the passage of time. The performers, armed with their found objects, collaborate to weave sounds, textures, and emotions as the music explores different facets of loss, memory, and time, mirroring the multifaceted nature of the objects themselves. As the composition unfolds, listeners are invited to reflect on their own relationships with the things they discard or overlook in their daily lives. The music is a reminder that even in abandonment there is beauty, and in forgotten objects, there are stories waiting to be heard.

In this piece, the sea becomes a metaphor for our inner world. Its magnificent greatness and unpredictability are matched by the depth and richness of the human soul – so that the sea becomes a reflection of the feelings that populate our inner world. The meditation at the beginning of the score, and a few additional lines at inflection points during the piece, invite the performers to use their visualization power to follow the frequent changes in mood and energy levels. Meditation: “Look inside and notice the depth and power of the inner sea - so that the soul can reveal its majestic vastness. Observe the fast pace of thoughts and alternating feelings, like the perpetual cadence of a storm that begins, ceases and then begins again, sweeping us of our feet, like waves whipped by the raging winds, leaving us in awe and serenity, exhausted with a note of sadness…” The universal language of music is the most adequate way to be in awe of nature and in contact with our feelings. Similar to our feelings and thoughts, frequent changes occur in several dimensions throughout this piece: a) Temporal—changes in tempo; rhythms designed to create alternating sensations of chaos, lack of balance, and short peaceful moments; b) Vertical dimension—alternating between the sea level (the surface waves), the skies (with the wailing seagulls calls) and the depth of the sea (sounds resembling a whale song); c) Emotional—the sea can resonate with the entire scale of human emotions and irrationality.

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