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Everything is Illuminated (septets: percussion, piano, harp, violin, viola, cello, double bass)

by Lisa Cheney (2016)

Everything is Illuminated


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Everything is Illuminated : for chamber ensemble / Lisa Cheney

Library shelf no. 785.3817/CHE 1 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

Everything is Illuminated is deeply rooted in my preoccupation with colour and timbre and metallic, plucked or struck sounds often dominate the foreground in consistent quintuplet figures. Throughout the piece, the musicians' voices are utilised as a mostly percussive technique through stage whispering words and syllables of the title. Many of the metre choices and the evolving sense of pulse can also be traced back to the syllables within the work title.

One of the first things that intrigued me about the instrumentation of this ensemble was that the connective thread between the instruments appeared to be that they could all be plucked, struck or bowed in some manner. Secondly, the strength of the higher treble registers in the crotales, vibraphone, piano and violin were appealing in my exploration of different types of musical 'illumination'. This quest for bright, metallic, floating and flowing sounds was realised through both the rhythmic, quintuplet driven, vertical/harmonically driven and propelling 'A' sections. In contrast to the more sparse, floating, heterophonic, and spacious 'B' sections. Each section is continuously interrupted by another before it can take over. But at the heart of interruptions are the bars of silence in the A sections. Nothing can ever quite get started or last for a fulling amount of time. The tension and anticipation grows and assists in creating pillars in between each different version of illumination. It allows the listener to compare and contrast between them and to appreciate the beauty in the inherently fragile moments, hinting at an underlying instability in the work. Although the final section, section D seeks to present a reimagined take of A and B beauty/illumination, the last solo vibraphone line disappears into silence and a sense of impermanence prevails. Fleeting fragments float away in the void, and we're left considering the beauty for the short time we had it echoing the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi. Propelling, interrupted, broken, sparkling, floating, growing, devolving, ringing and resonant.

When writing this work I was influenced by Takemitsu's Stanza for guitar, harp, piano, celesta, vibraphone and voice. Most of appealing within this work was the free time, variation of tempo within phrases and phrase led thinking. I was attracted to a sense of fragility in the texture as it was easy to hear a single pluck of a string. Phrases often featured long pauses to finish, creating a strong sense of space. Thought had been given to pockets of foregrounded solo instruments engaging in a conversation-like interplay, often two or three voices at a time. Other works that proved influential on musical elements of this work included Elliott Gyger's A Garden for Orpheus, Olivier Messian's Quartet for the End of Time and David Lang's Breathless and These Broken Wings.

Work Details

Year: 2016

Instrumentation: Harp, piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass, percussion (1 player: crotales (2 octaves), vibraphone, tam-tam, toms (4), bass drum).

Duration: 9 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Commission note: Written for the 2016 Yale Norfolk New Music Workshop

First performance: by Joe Rebman, Nicoletta Favari, Chris Salvito, Alfonso Fernandez, Anne Wybenga, Lili Sarayrah, Sam Bobinski, Julian Pellicano — 2 Jul 16. Yale Norfolk New Music Workshop, Norfolk, Connecticut, USA

Performances of this work

2 Jul 16: Yale Norfolk New Music Workshop, Norfolk, Connecticut, USA. Featuring Joe Rebman, Nicoletta Favari, Chris Salvito, Alfonso Fernandez, Anne Wybenga, Lili Sarayrah, Sam Bobinski, Julian Pellicano.

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