Cayuga

(1999)

by

Description
Chamber ensemble of 15 players
Duration
15
Genres
Mixed Chamber Ensemble
Instrumentation
fl(=picc).ob.cl(=Eb+bcl).bsn - hn.tpt.trbn - perc(1): susp.cym/hi-hat/SD/BD/4 tom-t/mcas/police whistle/slide whistle/mar/vib/xyl/glsp - pno - harp - 2 vln.vla.vc.db
Commission
Commissioned by Faber Music Ltd for its Millennium Series. Joseph Phibbs was nominated by Colin Matthews.
First Performance
15.4.00, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London: London Sinfonietta/Pierre-André Valade
Availability

Score 0-571-52038-3 on sale, parts for hire

Programme Notes
The inspiration for this piece came mainly from two sources: the first connected with landscapes, and the second literary. As the piece progressed, however, these became increasingly intertwined. Cayuga is the name of the region surrounding the small university town of Ithaca, NY, an area dominated by hills and forestland. I wanted to evoke a sense of the vast, expansive landscapes that can be seen from high up on the Cornell campus, and in this respect the slow, drawn-out evolution of line became an important musical consideration for me. These landscapes are equally spectacular at night, the neon lights of Ithaca gently merging with a myriad of stars above - again, against a dark backdrop of seemingly endless hills on the horizon. In this respect the musical representation of light (and darkness) became another preoccupation. The second source is taken from a poem by René Char: "Billions of years flowing in the influx from everywhere, and circular, the song of Orpheus, never at an end. The gods are in metaphor. Snatched up in the sudden swerve, poetry gains a beyond without guardian."[trans S. M.A.Caws]. The circular, 'unending' quality of this passage particularly struck me, together with the unfathomable image of "billions of years". Indeed, the piece is frequently shaped by circular gestures, on both a large and small scale. I also became interested with the idea of two or more different musical ideas evolving simultaneously, and how these might develop (or even arise) 'invisibly' as it were, when not actually present in the texture. One such example of this is a tom-tom line, which is 'given birth' through the collision of various instrumental strands shortly before the centre of the piece, only to gain increasingly in intensity, finally punctuating a violent crossfire between the woodwind and brass towards the end of the work. Cayuga is humbly dedicated to Colin Matthews, who not only nominated me to write this piece (as part of the Faber Millennium Series), but who has shown me great kindness and support so often in the past. I feel both honoured and flattered that he has put his faith in me. Joseph Phibbs

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