The Arching Path
I. Musmeci's Concrete
|Commission||Commissioned by the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music. 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.|
|Premiere||March 30, 2016; American Academy in Rome; Vicky Chow, piano|
|Technical requirements||The pianist places an ebow inside the piano between the second and third movements. It should be placed on middle C. The sounding pitch should be C5 (one octave above middle C). This effect is optional but adds a beautiful haze to the end.|
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 (Bridge over the Basento River), a bridge in the southern Italian city of Potenza. It is often called the Ponte Musmeci, named after its designer, the engineer Sergio Musmeci. While visiting Potenza, 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. In the music, the pianist very slowly expands the range of the music throughout the entire movement in a series of wavelike patterns. The pianist is asked to play many different rhythms on top of one another, imaging how different speeds can represent different curves on the bridge. Finally, 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 review 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 movement, “A Going Concern,” 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. At 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. 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.
- Christopher Cerrone