work: under the world

Under the World

Written for members of the NMSW Trio as part of a New Music in the South West project inspired by the Royal West of England Academy’s exhibition Strange Worlds: The Vision of Angela Carter, this work is a response to Brazilian artist Ana Maria Pacheco’s enigmatic painting Hades II. It takes as its starting point the strong polarity that is set between the vertical and horizontal dimensions in the visual rhetoric: the human figure lying – seemingly inert – in the lower part of the picture may be seen as symbolic of mortality, while the soaring force that surges up from it, together with the figure of Hades standing on the left of the canvass, as representing the divine and superhuman. Under the World attempts to transpose that dualism to the sound realm of the clarinet and cello duo combination. The divine (vertical) element is essentially enacted by the overarching motion of the bow, which slowly makes its way up from the very lower extremity of the cello’s strings – under the bridge (where the player has no control over the pitch) – to the higher end of the normal bowing area, before descending again and ending where it started. Mortality (the human, horizontal dimension) is symbolised by the sound of breathing that is heard in the clarinet part at several points along the piece. These two key instrumental gestures set up a dialogue between the two performers, each telling their own side of the story, sometimes confronting one another as independent voices, sometimes reinforcing each other as one.

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commissioned by:
first performance:

clarinet and cello

New Music South West
RWA, Bristol (UK)
perf. A. Keenan & R. Phillips