FRAGILE (2022)

for five performers
Bass Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano
Commission Award by Brandeis University for the 2nd Henri Lazarof International Composition Competition
Premiere: Sound Icon, Jeff Means (conductor); Brandeis University, March 27, 2022
Duration: 32’



Bass Clarinet: Chuck Furlong
Violin: Gabriella Diaz
Viola: Mark Berger
Cello: Stephen Marotto
Piano: Elaine Rombola Aveni
Conductor: Jeff Means

| Fragile Sounds |

The three string players perform a wide variety of uncontrollable, fragile, granular sounds resulting from the unorthodox positions, levels of pressure, and angles of the bow. The bass clarinetist also performs unstable, fragile, and extremely quiet sounds that lie at the border of audibility.

| Fragile Lived-Space |

The bass clarinetist often turns the instrument into a resonator that amplifies and modulates the vocal action, while the string performers make extensive use of vocalizations that are intended to blend, as seamlessly as possible, with their instrumental sounds. The embodiment of materiality, the emphasis on the physicality of the instruments, and the fragility of the sounds that the embodiment and physicality entail, give prominence to a fragile sound-lived-space.

| Fragile Presence |

In the first part, the late entrance of the piano, which evokes a memory from Henri Lazarof’s Offrande, that is, a resonating minor third, also demarcates a long period of absence, while in the second part, despite its virtuosity, the piano still remains well hidden by the complex activity of the other instruments, and becomes present, mostly, through its resonance. Therefore, piano’s fragility is a metaphor: either because of its absence or because of its misguided and reluctant presence.

| Fragile Memory |

The third part is a synthesis of all previous harmonic, intervallic, rhythmic, and timbral materials that now come together for the first time. The earlier reference from Lazarof’s work turns out to be a fragile memory that is boldly distorted into an obsessive loop. Patterns of techno music, bizarre progressions of dominant chords, rhythmic complexity, and granular sound effects are all intertwined into a monstrous caricature that no longer resembles the original reference, even though it is directly linked to it. The original reference does not appear as a fixed idea that resides in the past but, rather as a living organism that evolves over time. Its distortion is a creative re-synthesis that manifests the fragility of our memories, our inability to keep them intact, and the power of imagination to transform them into new experiences in unpredictable ways. My goal is to inscribe something personal within the journey of our consciousness and the free play of imagination.

| Fragile History |

Every new work is not an abstract conception historically cut off from its artistic predecessors. It makes manifest a cultural dependency on works of the past that created the conditions for its possibility. Because Offrande will be performed in the same concert, I envision a new work, which would highlight this kind of dependency. Just like one could think of history as fragile because it lies in the future and, thus, is subject to change every time we reflect upon it, likewise, I like to think of historical artworks as fragile, for they are contingent upon the new works that draw on them. In other words, by formally integrating aspects of Lazarof's work into the concept of fragile, I do not aim to preserve, validate, or pay a tribute to an artistic endeavor of the past but, rather, to take advantage of its historical fragility and transform it into a wholly new aesthetic experience.

Special thanks to Carlos Cordeiro for his assistance in the development of the materials for the bass clarinet.

© 2020 Ioannis Angelakis