Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Without a plan

Began, several times, and then abandoned, plans for setting the Orpheus & Eurydice passage from Book 4 of Virgil's Georgics. Now I'm just starting at the beginning, writing a phrase at a time, without a plan. The opening phrase (...dulcis coniunx, te solo in litore secum...) is finished, for three high voices (SSA), with no small tension between the text and the music, as the text is given, and the music works according to an automism of its own. Which is okay, because I'm setting the text, its sounds, its rhythms, but not necessarily the narrative. Having done this little bit, it already seems clear that the last phrase -- with the name of Eurydice echoing on the river banks -- will also have those high voices. See: despite your best intentions, the outlines of a plan still emerge. I think that the next phrase, the entry into Hades (...alta ostia Ditis...), is for bass voice and harp. More plans.


Setting this Latin text is exciting because the language is so strange. The vocabulary is hard for me, very different from Church Latin. Metre is used with extreme subtlety; sentences stretch over lines, very sophisticated combinations of the two basic metric units conspire with the use of assonances to give passages a particular flow, which are then sometimes interrupted by sudden breaks in continuity. It's all so modern.

(For the curious, a PDF score of another Georgics setting, An Unearthing, is here.)

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