End Words is now live

Our Cinematic 360 production of Christopher Trapani’s End Words, recorded by Ekmeles and re-mastered by Christopher for this production is now available through Vimeo’s on-demand.

The project’s on-demand page is here.

Our director’s statement is here.

Music : Christopher Trapani
Performers : Ekmeles
Visual Art : Maya + Rouvelle
Poetry : Anis Mojgani, They Raised Violins (movement I)
Ciara Shuttleworth, Sestina (movement II)
John Ashbery, The Painter (movement III)

from Maya+Rouvelle:

Our intention was to create an uncanny world where Trapani’s music, its poetry and our visuals are symbiotic. The passageway to this environment is nature, filtered through the lens of Trapani’s work; spiraling between the familiar and the dream-like.

from Christopher Trapani:

I’ve always been fascinated by the sestina:
this archaic form, thirty-nine lines
that spin out in an intricate spiral.
Six-line stanzas, with six end words
that repeat in a predetermined shape.
Those patterns were begging for music.

So I started looking for poems to set to music,
and bought an anthology of sestinas.
“The Painter” was an old favorite, and the unusual shape
of Anis Mojgani’s poem—the way he streamlines
crisp, hallucinatory images and tender words—
drew me into a propulsive yet nostalgic spiral…

Predictably, things began to spiral
out of control when I started to imagine the music
I’d devise for Ashbery’s words.
“The Painter” turned into a sort of ur-sestina
setting: I started with thirty-six lines
of related natural harmonies, laid out in the shape

of a six-by-six grid. Then I shaped
the harmonic progression as a spiral
traced through that plane, drawing curved lines
that wander though disjointed consonance—music
laid out so that adjacent stanzas of the sestina
share a repeated harmony over repeated end words.

Line numbers are embedded in the words
as durations. Another grid shapes
the map of shifting tempi—so the sestina
has influenced all the piece’s parameters. The spiral’s
hypnotic rigor invades all aspects of the music.
With the singers, I prerecorded many lines,

syllables, and effects, for the electronics—lines
to chop up and retune, and sometimes single words—
to create collages of vocal sounds. The music
for “They raised violins” started to take shape
with “bones,” “string,” “petals”— each node in the spiral

set to a unique texture. And Ciara Shuttleworth’s “Sestina”
was the perfect compact shape: just six one-syllable words
whose meanings shift as the spiral unravels, lines
that fray as the sestina thins to stark, still music.

Orpheus Fragments with Carduus Chamber Choir

Six movements about the myth of Orpheus.

From Carduus:
In the exquisite corpse game, created and popularized by André Bréton, several players work together to draw an imaginary creature. Each person takes a turn to draw one part of the body. They cannot see the rest of the body, but they can see where the last person left off. The result is an absurd figure, contiguous but made of vastly different parts. Carduus wrote this piece using the exquisite corpse game as a model, with the story of Orpheus serving as the “corpse” that they aimed to stitch back together. 

Holly Druckman’s pre-concert remarks (Youtube)
Post-premiere panel discussion with Carduus and Maya + Rouvelle (Youtube)

From Maya + Rouvelle:
When Pluto permits Eurydice to leave the underworld he instructs Orpheus not to turn his head until he reaches the light. Some interpret this as a rule, and Orpheus and Eurydice are then punished for breaking a rule. We disagree with this interpretation.

Instead, Pluto asks Orpheus to trust so that he may return to the light with his love. Pluto has been moved by Orpheus’ music and poetry. Orpheus pointed out to Pluto and Persephone that their own relationship, just like that of Orpheus and Eurydice, is based on love. This sways the lord of the underworld to make the most rare of exceptions.

Orpheus and Eurydice then begin their ascent to the light – seemingly unaware of the delicate balance of passion and reason required to reach the divine banquet above.

With their goal before them, Orpheus becomes doubtful. He reasons that he has not heard Eurydice’s steps. His anticipation becomes fear. He turns his head. Orpheus has lost his conviction. It is Trust that has been broken. His passions and reasoning, thrown out of balance, produce an inner turmoil that foils their ascent to the light. Eurydice disappears into the darkness, content with having known love, Orpheus ascends alone to the earthly realm, tortured by his loss.

Ascent to the light, in literature from antiquity, is often symbolized by one attaining wings to ascend to the divine banquet, where the eternal Ideas can be contemplated, and where reason or passion alone will not suffice. Indeed it is a balance between them that may produce the necessary metamorphosis for transcendence.

Mythological beings embody principles to be contemplated as sumbolom, fragments of wholes, each incomplete, yet when joined together they reveal otherwise hidden knowledge. A special kind of symbol. This is especially true of Orpheus and Eurydice. In other words the symbols are not representations of themselves. This knowledge was sustained by a rich oral tradition. That tradition is largely over. Perhaps the Arts have become a space for the contemplation of principles previously embodied in myth.

Our work for Orpheus Fragments poetically references the ideas mentioned above while suggesting that things apparent are the vision of things unseen. 

Visual Art by Maya + Rouvelle

Music by:
— Balkovets, “Happening” @ 1:10
text from Russel Hoban’s “The Medusa Frequency”
— Bouque, “Raumgewinn” @ 2:15
texts from Monteverdi’s “Orfeo” and Rilke’s “Sonnets to Orpheus”
— De Soto, “é mesmo velha historia” @ 4:48
text from “Orfeo Negro”
— Druckman, “Eurydice” @ 6:03
texts from Margaret Atwood’s “Variation on the Word Sleep” and H.D.’s “Eurydice”
— Herzog, “Little One” @ 10:29
original text by the composer
— Hiser, “Cocytus” @ 13:05
dialogue fragments from “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

[Texts by Russell Hoban, Margaret Atwood are used with permission.]

Soprano / Catherine Psarakis, Andrea Wozniak
Alto / Wei En Chan, Jenny Herzog
Tenor / Leo Balkovetz, Sam de Soto
Baritone / Tyler J. Bouque, Jacob Hiser
Bass / Elijah Botkin, Chris Talbot
Audio Engineer / Peter Atkinson
Carduus Director / Holly Druckman

This project is made possible in part by Choral Arts New England, and our generous private donors.