I.The Curio Box II.The Impossible Return III.Assemblage
The Cello Concerto for solo cello and an ensemble of twelve instruments was written for cellist Ariel Barnes and the Turning Point Ensemble of Vancouver. The work, in three movements, plays with notions of memory and the assemblage and juxtaposition of musical objects of multiple characters and styles. The first movement, entitled The Curio Box was originally written as a separate work, commissioned by Vancouver New Music and premiered in 2014 with Rebecca Wenham as the soloist. Curio Boxes during the Qing Dynasty were ingeniously designed with as many as 48 hidden compartments. On the outside, they are intricately constructed travel cases with decorative panels featuring gold inlay, mother of pearl, carved sandalwood, or painting. The boxes open mysteriously revealing multiple levels and small compartments containing precious objects such as miniature paintings, poems, scrolls, calligraphy, timepieces, jade, porcelain or bronze representing different cultures and historical periods. The idea of the curio box seemed to me quite musical in the way that musical memory often contains musics of different places, timeperiods, and expressions. The movement at first imagines a mysterious exterior which opens to reveal seven different musical objects, concluding with the reassemblage of the box. The second movement The Impossible Return references the opening melody and material which return to the end of the movement in a new way, this time featuring the solo cellist. Our memory of important events in our livesis often rich and detailed but in spite of our wishes or experience, we can never truly return to the same place. The third movement has similarities to the first in its polystylistic approach but in this case the music is assembled in combinations of motives and parts that are layered and played with, continually generating new material and ideas. My thanks to Ariel Barnes and the Turning Point Ensemble for their inspiration and support of this work.