La Scène Miniature
version for flute, bass clarinet, cello, and pianoFlute (or Violin), Bass Clarinet (or Tenor Saxophone), Piano, Cello (2009/2017)
|Premiere||May 23, 2009; New York City; Either/Or Ensemble (Jennifer Choi, violin; Michael Ibrahim, saxophone; David Shively, musical saw; Richard Carrick, piano)|
February 18, 2017; Library of Congress, Washington D.C.; Either/Or Ensemble (Margaret Lancaster, flute; Vasko Dukovski, bass clarinet; John Popham, cello; Richard Carrick, piano)
La Scène Miniature refers to the crucial scene in Albert Camus's l’Étranger,where protagonist Meursault's impulsive action unleashes a series of unforeseen consequences.
This tormented murder scene takes place on a beautifully calm Algerian beach, beginning with a man on the rocks calmly playing the same three notes on a flute over and over as the protagonist approaches. How can music capture the external beauty of this scene, (the wind, sea, birds, and unforgettable sun), alongside the internal conflict both Meursault and his opponent are experiencing (or in Meursault’s case, not experiencing)?
As the title suggests, La Scène Miniature is a descriptive work condensing narrative events of an imagined opera scene into shortened instrumental passages. Quite different in approach to my recently completed Flow Cycle (where musical ideas evolve, transform, and reappear from one composition to the next over the course of an hour), la scène miniature quartet does away with development in favor of capturing precise musical moments.
This is an intimate work where each instrumental grouping depicts a different musical character. The flute and piano play light and quickly embellished melodic figures while the bass clarinet and cello glacially transform sounds into gestures. They eventually come together on a twisted version of a Algerian melody (pulled from Bartok's field work in 1913) which ends with a dizzying North African dance blended with soaring microtonal lines above with static, bell-like chords in the piano.