Satirise – Mobile 2015
for guitar and harp
Duration: variable, ca. 10’
Premiere: Soundboard, Chicago, January 2015
Commissioned by DCASE (Chicago) and Ensemble dal Niente [part of INSTANT BEAUTY]
Recording: Ben Melsky, CD, September 2019
In the Narcissus myth, the young child is brought before the oracle Tiresias, who offers a riddle: “He will live long, if he does not discover himself.” The self the child grows up to find is not only his beautiful visage, but also his own countenance, disfigured by vanity. Satirise (an anagram for Tiresias) is a meditation about uncertain beauty. Its harmonic world is derived from just intonation, a system in which all the overtones of a sound are in a perfect relation to it. However, this beauty is never quite attainable: the musician’s physical gestures employ a variety of noise-based sounds that create a parallel world to the harmonies inherent in the tuning system. The harmonies stray from the system as well: the guitarist must finger chords on the frets, and the harpist employs chromaticism via the pedal. In this way, the open music of this mobile duo represents all the changeability inherent in Narcissus’s situation: the beautiful and its own corruption are ever-joined: each is palpable, nearly visible, but always fleeting, always displaying the other side of its nature.