Shadows aren’t mirrors

theisenc)i is excited to be performing a work by Alan Theisen for the first time – he’s on faculty at Mars Hill College near Asheville, North Carolina.  Some of you may know that I am on a long sabbatical, and I’m living down in NC;  I got to know his music as started getting to know musicians in this corner of the world. (Ah, soundcloud, my late night friend.)  When I heard Ondes et Ombres it struck me as a good fit for the 3x2x2x3 show that we were developing, both immanently as a piece and as a trio that would stand as one of the bookends of the program, contrasting Stravinsky’s masterful The Soldier’s Tale. (Apologies for the linkage, Alan; I went through a few years with c)i where I kept ending up on programs immediately after Crumb or Bartok, and so I was officially the hack-composer on the show…) 

His description of the relationship of the work to its title is quite interesting:

Ondes et Ombres was motivated by the very words of the title… I was pondering how the French word for “waves” (ondes) and the word for “shadows” (ombres) sound remarkably alike when spoken aloud in that language, unlike their counterparts in English. 

[ Alan’s page on the piece is here, but don’t succumb to spoiler-lust and listen online– come to the show!]

Like other works on the program, Ondes et Ombres emphasizes contrast dynamic motion and stillness, and the piece’s form involves games of pairs at the opening (in finest Bartok fashion) which mirrors some of the tension between solo and duo in my piece and the sharp distinction in roles in the Stravinsky, with its narrative substructure. 

The title also struck me; it is successful as a poetic turn, and nicely foreshadows the sounding-surface of the work.  But here _shadow_ (I think) is something rather different  than contrast or juxtaposition, (which you find in my piece (a bit) and Mario’s (a great deal).  They are a projection, through sound and through time, folding the piece’s future onto its past. Shadows are not darkness; they occlude but they do not block. In Alan’s piece it is obfuscation not void that pulls focus. Shadow’s aren’t mirrors either; Stravinsky’s Soldier is a protagonist, but is not the opposite of the bedeviling Devil.  His interests are nothing as fancy as souls, his or any other, and it is that orthogonality that makes what could be a rather shop-worn Tale become something more playful and surprising.  

[ As an aside, c)i should probably do a ‘shadows’ show at some point; the idea of music potential which emerges only in the contextual penumbra of a performance seems like just our thing.  And we’ve got rep: Ryan Steber’s Shadow Etudes, Alan’s piece, and I’m sure Kyle would be happy to arrange King Crimson’s “that which passes passes like clouds”. ]

Looking forward to seeing everyone on Sunday!

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