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Voodoo fire : trio for clarinet, percussion and keyboard

by Derek Strahan (1995)

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Voodoo fire


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Voodoo fire : and other works / by Derek Strahan.

Library shelf no. CD 1883 [Not for loan]

Voodoo fire


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Voodoo fire : trio for clarinet, percussion and keyboard / by Derek Strahan.

Library shelf no. Q 785.3613/STR 1 [Available for loan]

Display all products featuring this work (1 more)  

Work Overview

In an arc stretching from Brazil to the Caribbean, the animist religious beliefs of Africa remain alive in South and Central America. The Haitian version of this religion is the best known probably because it inspired the only successful slave revolt in the world, and also because of its supposed link with black magic. However, as in most religions, there are two clear paths which can be taken, that of the common good, and that of manipulative individual will. Central to Voodoo practice is the belief that, through ceremony and ritual the gods will possess participants and speak through them. Music and dance induce a trance state so that possession will occur. Specific dances and rites invoke specific gods. African music is distinguished by its use of polyrhythms in drumming. A complex "engine" of interacting rhythms produces a basis for unison chant. I have attempted in this piece to apply African rhythmic counterpoint to Western melodic counterpoint beyond what evolved in dance music to become "jazz". Beyond that is melodic polyrhythm, that tends to displace the vertical alignment of tones typical of Western music and that in jazz that follows a "chord sequence" in statement of melody and in improvisation.

Work Details

Year: 1995

Instrumentation: Clarinet, percussion, keyboard.

Duration: 16 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — polymetric elements in melody and percussion

Contents note: Invocation of the Fire God -- Dance to the Fire God -- Prayer to Shango.

Dedication note: Dedicated to Alan Vivian

Commission note: Commissioned by the Canberra School of Music for performance by Alan Vivian and colleagues.

First performance: by Alan Vivian, Michael Askill, Susanne Powell — 21 Apr 96. Canberra School of Music

Western culture has its own gods of fire, and they have always been very badly treated - this was always most unwise since, at the same time as being mistreated, these gods (or this spirit in different forms) has always been acknowledged as a benefactor. The Fire offered by this spirit is the fire of Light, Enlightenment and Knowledge. According to our various myths, the chief gods guarded Knowledge and kept it hidden from humans. It fell to the rebellious fire gods to share it with us, and they were always punished for their disobedience - demoted to being demi- gods (half-human), or demonized. Some of the names of the fire god in Western culture are: Prometheus, Loke and Lucifer, the latter known also as the Light-Bringer and known also as the Fallen Angel, who was expelled from Paradise. By contrast, neither the fire god, nor any Voodoo gods are thought of as being either good or evil. All Voodoo gods are offspring of the Creator-God Mawu

The composer notes the following styles, genres, influences, etc associated with this work:
applied jazz, polymetric, voodoo,

Previously titled: To the voodoo god of fire.

"Composed between December 1994 - May 1995 for Alan Vivian

Performances of this work

21 Apr 96: Canberra School of Music. Featuring Alan Vivian, Michael Askill, Susanne Powell.

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