VIGNETTES for violin and marimba. Duration 16:00 minutes. Available from PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.
Vignettes for Violin and Marimba was composed intermittently between the time of the total eclipse in August 2017 and New Year’s Eve of the same year. It was my response to a request by violinist Marc Djokic and my life-partner, percussionist Beverley Johnston for a concert they planned to share together in May 2018. It was also a belated gift for Bev’s 60th birthday. The three vignettes are titled Memories of Danforth Avenue, Night Sky and Preadaptation. Even though they are arranged in this order, performers are welcome to reverse the order of the vignettes, depending on what larger message they wish to convey to their audience. (The overall emotional message of this work changes significantly by reversing the sequence of the first and last vignette).
Memories of Danforth Avenue was composed during the week before Christmas 2017. Technically, it is a study of rhythm and timbre, particularly for the marimba while emotionally it taps on bitter-sweet memories from my early years in Canada when I was barely able to make a living by playing in Greek bands on Danforth Avenue in Toronto and felt quite disillusioned about my survival prospects in my new country.
Night Sky was completed during the total eclipse of August 2017. During the time of its composition, I was immersed in reading Hamlet’s Mill by Giorgio De Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, an exhaustive thesis proposing that world mythology has its origins in astronomical observation particularly in the phenomenon of the “precession of the equinoxes.” The two instruments “phase” against each other, the violin cycling at 12/8 against the marimba’s 11/8 and completing three full cycles, the harmonic root of each being a major third lower than that of the previous one. Within this macrostructure, the music of each cycle vaguely flirts melodically and harmonically with the 1971 pop song “Color My World” by the rock group Chicago, a song which has been solidly embedded in the mythical memory of my generation.
Preadaptation takes its name from the eponymous phenomenon in biological evolution. A seemingly random mutation takes place in a biological system and becomes significant only downstream when environmental conditions and pressures change. My compositional process is very similar to this phenomenon. In this vignette, sudden, unrelated and largely unpremeditated musical material becomes a key player in the unfolding of the structure downstream, even though these intrusions feel puzzling at the moment of their first incidence. In addition to the phenomenon of preadaptation, there is pervasive motivic/thematic logic in this vignette, but the larger decisions about the overall structure have been heavily influenced by these strange motivic interventions out of nowhere, which have changed the flow of the music in unmistakable ways.
Premiere performance: May 16, 2018. Marc Djokic, violin; Beverley Johnston, marimba. Concerts Noncerto. Recontres-Marimba&Violon; Maison des Jeunesses musicales, Salle Joseph-Rouleau. Monreal, Quebec.
The work is textural and enigmatic, with complex rhythmic undercurrents swirling beneath the surface. "Memories of the Danforth" quotes snippets of Greek tunes without sounding folksy, while "Night Sky" nods at the lunar impressionism of Debussy. Natasha Gauthier, Artslife, July 7, 2018.
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