mystic in the savage state

for soprano, clarinet in B flat(=bass clarinet), cello and percussion
January 2010; 8′

Premiere: The Chimera Ensemble, Rebecca Hardwick (soprano), York Concert Series, 25th June 2010.

Anywhere near blank rage
you veer oblivial.

Voile’, by Canadian avant-garde poet Christian Bök, is a “homophonic translation” of a sonnet, ‘Voyelles’, by French Symbolist Arthur Rimbaud. I began comparing these with an English translation by Martin Sorrell to see how each poem reflect upon the other. The title is a description of Rimbaud by Paul Claudel, a contemporary of his.

A, black fur-clad brilliant flies
Buzzing around cruel stenches,
Gulfs of shadow;

‘Voyelles’, ‘Vowels’ and ‘Voile’ are layered in a musical and theatrical filter as a means for exploring colour and levels of meaning, though the lines of the poems are never rearranged. Through a density flux from one poem to another, transient stages shift the soprano from one reality to another; meaning can be subsumed.

U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,
Paix des pâtis semés d’animaux, paix des rides
Que l’alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux;

Form is constantly changing, while the performers must deal with a fusion of traditional notation systems, metronome marks, graphic scoring and real time improvisation.

O, supreme Trumpet full of strange crescendo blasts,
Navigated silences of Worlds and Angels:
– O Omega, the violet radiance of Those Eyes!

After thirteen lines of escapist visions and beautiful imagery, Rimbaud remembers suddenly, ‘Ses Yeux!’ Given the religious emphasis in ‘divine shudderings’ and ‘Worlds and Angels’, if these eyes are not God’s, then whose? Readings could talk about universal love, truth, or philosophical meanings in life; yet an acceptance that even those wonderfully expressive, unimportant, unassuming vowels cannot describe what we know, feel, do not know – and all we are left with is the experience – is not enough? Are ‘cool chimes’ really ‘a primal green for studios?’ Yet somehow –

Cylinders versus diamonds
a decision.

Hollow, my grey ovule does
decide you.