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In Memoriam : Seven Paradoxical Tales, Oliver Sacks (1933-2015), for amplified tenor recorder, violin 1 & 2, cello, harpsichord & tape

by Constantine Koukias (2015)

Work Overview

This work has been composed in the memory of Oliver Sacks, a British neurologist and author who spent his professional life in the United States. It is dedicated to Sarah Jeffery. The work is based on Sacks' book, An Anthropologist on Mars.

Neurological patients, Oliver Sacks once wrote, are travellers to unimaginable lands. This work is a portrait of seven such travellers;

Tale 1. The Case of the Colorblind Painter, tells of an artist who loses all sense of colour in a car accident, but finds a new sensibility and creative power in black and white;

Tale 2. The Last Hippie, is about a young man with devastating amnesia who reconnects to his memory, and his family, through the music of the 1960's;

Tale 3. A Surgeon's Life, talks about a surgeon consumed by the compulsive tics of Tourette's syndrome unless he is operating;

Tale 4. To See and Not See, asks what vision would be like for someone who has been blind since birth but who, much later on in life, has his sight restored;

Tale 5. The Landscape of His Dreams, explores the world of Franco Magnani, 'A Memory Artist' possessed of a memory that could apparently reproduce with almost photographic accuracy every building and every street he had ever seen;

Tale 6. Prodigies, portrays Blind Tom in 1862, aged 6, who was considered then an 'idiot savant'. Blind Tom learned to play piano from hearing others, and could play with his back to the piano and his hands on the keys;

Tale 7. An Anthropologist on Mars, presents an autistic professor who cannot decipher the simplest social exchange between humans, but who has built a career out of her intuitive understanding of animal behaviour, in particular cows.

Work Details

Year: 2015

Instrumentation: Amplified tenor recorder, 2 violins, cello, harpsichord, tape.

Duration: 21 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Contents note: I. The case of the colourblind painter -- II. The last hippie -- III. A surgeon's life -- IV. To see and not to see -- V. The landscape of his dreams -- VI. Prodigies - Blind Tom, 1862 -- VII. An Anthropologist on Mars.

Dedication note: Dedicated to Sarah Jeffery.

Performances of this work

13 Dec 15: Oude Lutherse Kerk aan het Singel 411, Amsterdam

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