from the opera Invisible Citiesflute, clarinet in B-flat, horn in F, tenor trombone (with F attachment), piano, percussion, harp, violin, viola, violoncello (2008, chamber orchestra version 2013)
|Commission||Invisible Cities was commissioned by Stephen A. Block and Raulee Marcus for The Industry, Los Angeles.|
|Premiere||Invisible Overture was premiered on June 12, 2008 by the Orchestre National de Lorraine, Diego Masson at The Arsenale in Metz, France. The version for chamber orchestra was premiered by the orchestra of The Industry on October 19, 2013, Marc Lowenstein, conductor in Union Station, Los Angeles.|
“It is only after you have come to know the surface of things that you can venture to seek what is underneath. But the surface of things is inexhaustible.”
—Italo Calvino, Mr. Palomar
The music of Invisible Cities is a direct result of my collision with Calvino’s extraordinary novel for the first time. For years before, I had been trying to write the kind of music I wrote in Invisible Cities, but I been unable to bridge categories of music, thinking that a work could be either lyrical or conceptually rigorous, but not both. Calvino taught me that a work could be both intellectual, but also ravishingly beautiful. And this beyond all else drew me to adapt Invisible Cities.
I began by listening: to the resonance of a ringing piano, the ringing sound of bells, metal pipes, field recordings. And around this came the music for Invisible Cites: lush, yet always ringing, decaying, changing. Simple on the surface, but with many layers of sound, offering the listener many details. Above all, I tried to create a musical analog for the worlds in Calvino’s imagination. In doing this, I let my own experiences, dreams, memories blend with those of Calvino’s, making a music that was utterly personal and yet also totally wedded to the original.
As with Calvino, there are many conceptual components in my opera: the scenes always alternate confrontations between Kahn and Polo, and the cities Polo describes. The orchestra is split into two (left and right) halves.
There’s one more thing: Invisible Cities is a garden of forking paths. Meaning: that you might come across the same place over and over and over again from different perspectives, not only wandering to the same place in Union Station but also hearing the same music. As we grow and evolve, the same objects can acquire such different meaning. And that above else governs what Invisible Cities: how our memories change as we get older, and how our map of the world gets larger, and how our past is always being changed by our ever-shifting present.