The Arching Path
version for two pianos(2020)
I. Musmeci's Concrete
|Commissioned by the Yvar MikhashoffTrust for New Music and dedicated, with affection, to Vicky Chow; two piano arrangement made for HOCKET
March 30, 2016
Vicky Chow, piano
The American Academy in Rome
Premiere of the Two Piano Version
April 17, 2020 Hocket
UC Santa Barbara, California
Through the bound cable strands, the arching path
Upward, veering with light, the flight of strings,— …
—Hart Crane, from The Bridge
The Arching Path was inspired by a visit to the Ponte Sul Basento, a bridge in the southern Italian city of Potenza. It is often called the Ponte Musmeci, named after its designer, the engineer Sergio Musmeci. I was struck by this beautiful and hulking modernist mass—with its curving lines and concrete structure—that stood out from so much older, historical, and ornamented architecture in Italy.
The first movement, “Musmeci’s Concerte,” traces my own experience of walking through the substructure of the bridge, which features wavelike shapes the undulate slowly downward and outward. Throughout the entire movement, the music slowly moves downward in a series of wavelike patterns. The musical material itself—sharp, icy, repeated notes—draw inspiration from the material of concrete; something not often thought of as beautiful, yet an infinitely malleable material.
The second movement, “Sul Basento,” is aquatic, imaging a view of the bridge from the river below. Musically, it compresses the repeated notes of the first movement into an flowing and quiet tremolo. Just like skipping stones in water, the music imagines a single note from the piano bouncing across the sonic surface—slowing flowing from an attack into an almost sustained sound. The form of the music is aqueous too—one idea gradually flows into another until finally it grows into a grand musical depiction of a view of the entire bridge from below.
The final, untitled movement imagines these elements together in a kind of Epilogue, with the bridge (the repeated notes), the water (a flowing chorale), and a sharp repeated dissonant chord, weave together. In the end, both the bridge and the water are left in the distance.
The Arching Path was inspired by and dedicated to my dear friend Vicky Chow and was commissioned by the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music. Drawings of the bridge made by Alexander Robinson further inspired the piece. Additional commissioning support was provided by Rose and Michael Emanuele. The premiere of the work was supported by the Project Fellows Fund of the American Academy in Rome. The version for two pianos was made for HOCKET and premiered on April 17, 2020 at UC Santa Barbara.
– Christopher Cerrone