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Indra's net : song cycle for soprano/mezzo, cello and piano

by Ralph Middenway (2014)

Work Overview

The lyrics of this song cycle are from Indra's Net: A Sonnet Sequence, Hollis G. Zelinsky, 1995. The book contains eleven poems, of which five have been selected to make up this song cycle.

The poet has for many years suffered from Chronic Lyme Disease: the symptoms vary over time and from person to person, but at their worst can include chronic fatigue, immune system dysfunction, hypersensitivity to light and sound and a seemingly endless chain of migraine-like episodes; they feature in several poems, one of which is used in the cycle.

The lyrics, refined in her mind and dictated to her sister and others twenty years ago, are a chiaroscuro of some remembered joys, sorrows and hopes that filled her twilight world at the time. The cycle is written as one continuous piece of music.

Work Details

Year: 2014

Instrumentation: Soprano or mezzo, cello, piano.

Duration: 18 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Requires technical competence and considerable musicianship from all three performers.

The poet's life is drastically restricted by her illness; her life is necessarily reduced to her four walls, her memories and her imagination; the poetry reflects slow, ever-changing moods, from bleak despair to remembered or longed-for pleasures. Flexibility is the one essential ingredient.

The composer notes the following styles, genres, influences, etc associated with this work:
In trying to ascribe attributes to this piece some may consider words like 'minimalism', 'post-modernism', 'neo-impressionism', or 'expanded tonality'. There may be some validity in all of the terms; none of them provides a complete picture. Passages recur, seldom identically.

Written for a folio of compositions submitted in part-fulfillment of requirements for a Composition PhD from UTas, awarded in 2015.


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