Underwriting the Palimpsest (trombone with orchestra)
by Cameron Lam (2019)
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1. a very old text or document in which writing has been removed and covered or replaced by new writing
2. something such as a work of art that has many levels of meaning, types of style, etc. that build on each other
(Source: Cambridge Dictionary of
Underwriting the Palimpsest is based on an earlier brass band work called Graffiti - echoes of the original work bleed through the pages of this occasionally. Most notably I've utilised melodic excerpts as the three themes of this concerto (in a modified sonata form) which themselves overlay, interact and bleed into one another.
There are two main metaphors I've used when writing this work, the first is of time and civilisation moving onwards. Themes A & B, heard in the opening of the work, are relatively conservative in nature and accompanied likewise, I imagine these as works written in ink and quill. Theme C is brash, dynamic and modern - the keys of a printing press, in our imagined analogy, being hammered in over the top of our previous themes.
The second metaphor is more personal, that of people, memory and experiences. In the course of our lives we re-invent ourselves based on social impetus, new experiences or desires. And in doing so, we attempt to wash clean our previous understanding, or previous actions before constructing our new self to present to the world. However, much like the vellum pages of many medieval palimpsests these previous words lie just beneath the surface. What would it be like to "own" and accept our previous selves, the ignorant choices and our misunderstanding of the world? For us to be aware of the multitude of previous selves that have gotten us to our current understanding, a tapestry of memory, or palimpsest of ideas, hidden just below our skin.
In either case, we invest our ancient past (whether personal or social) into the new, into the modern, into "progress". Our shared or personal history underwrites our movements forward and is what we so often fall back to when new directions fail. But, if we succeed, these new works represent a beginning rather than an ending, and we start to overwrite - creating a new palimpsest from the one we have underwritten.
Instrumentation: trombone solo, orchestra (188.8.131.52 - 4.2.1+bass,1 - 2perc.timp - strings)
Duration: 15 min.
Commission note: Commissioned by Amy McCarthy
Performances of this work
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