Ce bout de tissu – String Octet
May 1st 2017 at Carnegie Hall
With the original Lark members Laura Sewell, Anna Kruger, Robyn Mayforth, & Kay Stern as special guests.
From the Composer
I’m thrilled to be writing a piece for the Lark 30th anniversary, and especially excited in that I get to write for a Lark dream-team consisting of the group’s past and present members. I’ve written a gaggle of pieces for quartet, but this is my first octet (the opportunity comes up rarely, it must be said), a medium I love and am loving being in for an extended stay.
The piece is provisionally called Ce bout de tissu, which translates to “that piece of cloth”, and comes from Le harem politique, a visionary work by the great Moroccan feminist and sociologist Fatima Mernissi. Toward the work’s conclusion she writes “All debates on democracy get tied up in the woman question and that piece of cloth that opponents of human rights today claim to be the very essence of Muslim identity.” Mernissi writes as both a feminist and a devout Muslim, one whose readings of history and scripture lead her to reject the stereotyped view of Muslim women perpetrated by the West and by fundamentalist Islam. The piece takes up this image and the larger, more global struggles of which it is just one example, in the form of large set of variations on the opening dramatic gesture.
The octet is treated really as two quartets, two groups of women whose materials are related but distinct, pursuing two parallel, at times intersecting, paths. Sometimes the two comment on each other antiphonally, while at others they explore the same ideas but from very different emotional perspectives. Eventually they collide in a violent, uprooting climax, after which they come together, for the first time in the piece, around a shared theme that pulls them upwards and unites them in a common purpose. I like this shape because it suggests to me the power of Mernissi’s self-conception as a liberated Muslim woman, and because it yields an inherently musical arc, one that travels through various levels of discussion, disruption and conflict, to a conclusion defined by textural, harmonic and emotional unity.
Other Works by Andrew