Instrumentation: Piano and Fixed Audio
Commissioned by Megumi Masaki with support from The Manitoba Arts Council
Premiere: Brandon University New Music Festival, January 22, 2016
The tale of Orpheus has inspired musicians since the late Renaissance. I first encountered the story as an undergraduate and in recent years it has haunted me through a number of pieces. Orpheus (2) is a “sequel” to Orpheus Drones (2011) and both were written for Megumi Masaki. The source text is Margaret Atwood’s poem of the same title. She also makes a modern day connection to the torture and death of the Chilean singer Victor Jara, in the days following the coup of 1973.
Even before I began work on the piece, I was struck by the opening line: “Whether he will go on singing.” Since Megumi had asked for the opportunity to interact with the text, I require the pianist to sing and speak while playing. There are also places where she must clap. I decided to take the participation concept a step further and have included a section for the audience (so they can sing too). While much of Orpheus’s story centres on loss, torture and death, Atwood’s text twists the pain in a new direction, towards defiance and hope.