ae53—The Other-for Solo Cello

The Other is about ways of being, or more precisely, about the condition of being.

Encased, the first movement of this three movement work, features only pizzicato playing from the cellist. The denial of one of the most central qualities of the cello–that of its rapturous bel canto legato when bowed–through a movement all in pizzicato suggested to me a hammered or choked quality, as though voice itself were denied. The rhythmic motives of the movement suggest a knocking or repeated kicking from within the ‘box’ of the cello as one seeks voice. This analogy is one that seemed to me very relevant to the human condition. Throughout life we all seek to be heard for our unique voice and this is what this movement represents in sound–the struggle of that quest.

Light, the second movement of the work is a long, slow, mesmeric setting of a simple tune or perhaps more precisely tune fragments. The melody never really ‘flowers’ as such, but is captured in a still, reticent, voice unable to quite reach a full statement of expression. This movement seeks to capture that halting, wistful spirituality that comes from a deep meditation on humanity and our human condition as we quest to be heard and seen, even if only by something larger than ourselves. This movement was written around the time of the death of Polish composer Henryk Górecki and is dedicated to his memory.

Dervish, the third movement is set as a frantic moto perpetuo in swirling lines cascading through the vast range of the cello. Without even one beats rest throughout, the movement represents not only a massive technical challenge for the soloist but also seeks to capture the ever quickening pulse and pace of obsessive physical meditation. Working through such waves of pulsating lines the movement tightens its rhythmic and metrical span from three compound beats in a measure to two and then finally a simple two beats, evoking, perhaps, the breathless quest of such a journey. The work ends, then, in a circling spiral of rhythmic ideas and obsessive repeated notes and themes climaxing in somewhat of a ‘breakthough’ in this three movement journey.

The Other is the title of this work because it is emblematic of what we all seem to seek—the search for that other that is different, and better—the fulfillment of our ideals, the other of our dreams.

The work was written for and is dedicated with gratitude and in friendship to cellist Paul York.

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Paul York
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