Music from Elsewhere
Recorded live at American Composers Orchestra’s 2013 Underwood New Music Readings, George Manahan, conductor (www.americancomposers.org).
Written for and performed by the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Sydney Hodkinson, conductor.
Music from elsewhere is a concert-length series of works for instrumentations ranging from solo flute and piano to full orchestra. The title is taken from a passage in Margaret Atwood’s novel The Robber Bride; when I came upon it, the phrase evoked for me a sense of dichotomy between two types of music: one that is fully present, audible, and familiar to us, and another which is more mysterious, emerging into our perception only in fits and starts – the music from elsewhere. The idea of this dichotomy appealed to me because it seemed to capture a facet of the experience of daily life, namely, that if prosaic and familiar concerns largely shape our existence, they are occasionally interrupted by a sense that something larger and more fundamental is at work behind the scenes. Each piece in Music from elsewhere attempts to capture that sense of an ineffable, larger something.
The Extinguished Lights
Commissioned and performed by the Millbrook High School Wind Band, Craig Fryer, conductor.
The Extinguished Lights is a musical depiction of a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer set in the Polish village of Bilgoreh. In the story, the Hanukkah candles are being lit when a sudden, powerful wind blows them out in every house simultaneously. In a dream, an old woman learns that the candles were extinguished by the spirit of her granddaughter who has recently died of illness; the child asks that she be included in one more Hanukkah celebration in which the villagers travel to her grave and light the holiday candles there. A fierce winter storm subsides and the cemetery is transformed into a festive scene; the story closes as a golden light shines above the girl’s grave to show that her soul is at peace.
The musical score follows the story closely. You’ll hear the prayer over the candles in a chant-like unison line; the girl’s request dramatized in a solo for the piccolo; and the winter storm in a wild passage for percussion.