On Sciarrino’s Centauro Marino

This week we’re sharing a piece from c)i’s first CD, Group Theory, a disc that featured two long-time members Steve Beck and Sumi Kudo. That’s actually the crew that played my first Piano Quartet on my ‘Some Consequences…’ CD for 2018. I just saw King Crimson at Radio City last month, so I’m very temped to call that c)i III (which would mean we’re at c)i V now (welcome, once again Dan and Caleb!).

But c)i’s relationship to the piece is much older than that. We were playing it within a few years of our formation, and it was one of the pieces that made us commit to the instrumentation of string trio, clarinet, and piano, and some echoes of the piece are definitely present in my Quintet l’homme armé, my first piece for that power quintet. The instrumental colors are, as always with Sciarrino, perfect in all ways;- intricate but also quite simple in many ways, and the feu d’artifice, as showy as they might seem in the moment, are impeccably balanced to amplify the impact of the form. This is always a piece that is a tight 9, but always feels to me to be 20 minutes or more, like I’ve been pulled out of the timeline and put back in not quite in the right place. Quintet l’homme armé plays a similar game of balance, and has a similar utilization of pianissimo- Centauro Marino punctuates its own zero-point matrix with sharp, inelastic collisions, while my quintet finds crosses the skein of pulse and density into a quietistic isorhythm, a reflection on the surpassing enthalpy of certain strategies of music making.

Quietism is the right word for the Sciarrino, despite the (irregular) interruptions. We performed that as the last piece on one of my favorite show from that classic c)i III period. We were in the vast cavernous space of the old Washington Square Church, all dust and must and holy resonance. I remember walking out into the night, some autumn evening in Manhattan, in the subtle brûit of a less tidy, constructed by less rebuilt Manhattan, and thought about how that churn had sanctified our little show, puzzled people, spiders listening at least as much to the vibrations of their was as to the who, and church-mice living their church-mice lives. We walked out into the evening and as we walked down the steps to the sidewalk, Kyle turned to me and said “Quiet. It’s the new loud.”

Leave a Reply