Transparency (Part I)

2004, 2010 | solo percussion


[ score | recording ]

This piece for solo percussion is the first part of what was to be a four-movement cycle scored for four triangles, large concert bass drum, maracas (absent here in Part I), and sandpaper. The title refers to a line in Octavio Paz’s poem, “Ustica”:

Mortalidad es transparencia
(“Mortality is transparency”).

The focal point of the cycle is the bass drum.  It is a site for musical action that yearns to transcend the instrument’s typical character and limitations.  Increasingly the player strives to delineate multiple timbres and musical layers, as if trying to teach the instrument to transform its body, to speak or even sing.  The triangles, though at the other end of the music’s timbral spectrum, share the persistent sustain and comparatively limited expressive possibilities of the bass drum.  They, too, are eventually called on to engage in a more nuanced and “expressive” discourse than their ostensible nature might imply.  They can be understood not just as the separate, strongly contrasting voice they appear to be, but also as another facet in the journey of a singular, complex and evolving musical personality. 

Transparency (Part I) was commissioned by Aiyun Huang, who gave both its first performance in September 2004 in Geneva, Switzerland and premiered the revised version in 2010. It is lovingly dedicated to my mother, Gloria Levine. As I composed the piece, her mortality was becoming ever clearer; her passing, shortly after the premiere of Part I, in a sense completed the cycle before I had the chance to finish the other movements.