THE BIRTH OF VENUS for double bass and tape. 1990. Commissioned by Robert Black with a grant from the Canada Council. 18 minutes. Score/part and DAT tape available through PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.



The Birth of Venus is the second piece of a group of electro-acoustic works collectively titled Quaternio (also see: Pavillons En l' Air, From the Vanishing Gardens of Eden and Of Threads and Labyrinths). Several events during the time of its composition led to its title and the choice of music material thereof. The most central of these events was the birth of my daughter, Maria. It was actually from the moment of her birth, as she was emerging "….from the waters", that the mythical image of Aphrodite [Venus] being born from the sea began to haunt me. When the excitement of Maria's birth subsided somewhat and I was able to think about music again, it became clear to me that my original plans for a rather aggressive, fast-moving piece for Robert Black would have to be abandoned in favor of this new inspiration. A few days earlier, Robert had visited me at my home in Toronto eager to show me his new electric bass. I was particularly impressed by the visual beauty of its design. To me it looked like a modern abstraction of Aphrodite of Milos, a slim, elegant female form accentuated by the outline of a partly invisible body. By the end of the first month of her life my own Venus, Maria, had already decided on her favorite music-box tunes. The one that topped them all was Brahms' 'Lullaby'. Inevitably, this melody found its way into the composition undergoing various dream-like transformations. The entire music of the tape part is born out of the sound of waves breaking at the seashore and the low notes emanating from the live instrument on stage. From the structuralism of the opening and closing sections, where the intervalic relationships of overtone series are transferred to the realms of harmony and rhythm, to the minimalism and dream-like surrealism of the middle section, The Birth of Venus is about childish, unsophisticated beauty; the musical characters in the piece are depictions of characters from the kind of stories which are presumably written for children, but which in reality are addressed to the child within each and every one of us.

Premiere performance: April 3, 1991 by Robert Black, double bass. 'Subtropics III' Festival, produced by the South Florida Composers' Alliance. Miami, Florida.

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