Si doux : for six instruments
by Elliott Gyger (1997)
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Library shelf no. CD 1525 [Available for loan]
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doux: kind - gentle - smooth - environmentally friendly - fresh (water) - pleasant (weather, memory) - mild (weather, temperament, taste) - sweet (personality, sound, taste) - soft (texture, noise, voice, music)
As the above (by no means exhaustive) list indicates, the translation of a word from one language to another is no simple matter. The precision of the French word's original flavour is entirely lost, while its ambiguities fragment and proliferate in sometimes unexpected directions. This process is perhaps analogous to the act of listening to music: in its own "language", a low B flat for the bass clarinet is unambiguously itself, but there is no limit to the potential connotations of that sound as it is "translated" in the mind of the listener.
si doux is on one level a chamber concerto, a conscious exploration of the individual and collective virtuosity of the Australia Ensemble (which gave the premiere in August this year). However, that aspect of the music is tempered throughout in ways suggested by the title, most obviously in the choice of warm and delicate timbres (alto flute and bass clarinet, and the strings muted for most of the time). The result is a kind of "veiled" virtuosity, a paradoxical combination of introvert and extrovert which becomes ever more apparent in the later part of the piece.
The first half of the work consists of six sections, separated from one another by brief cadenzas for each of the instruments except the piano. Each section introduces its own new musical idea, as well as restating in varied form the ideas introduced in earlier sections; the materials are kept very distinct, with no two ideas heard together. In the course of the second half of the piece, these six ideas are layered on one another with increasing elaboration and complexity, until just before the end all six are played simultaneously (one by each instrument). The close may be heard as a completion of the cadenza cycle of the first half, but also suggests other possible directions which are to remain unexplored.
Instrumentation: Alto flute in G, bass clarinet in B flat, violin, viola, cello, piano.
Duration: 13 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — Professional.
Commission note: Commissioned by Australia Ensemble.
Performances of this work
9 Aug 97: Sir John Clancy Auditorium, University of NSW, Sydney. Featuring Australia Ensemble.
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