If It Had To Perish Twice
For String Quartet
the Manhattan Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, 2014
July 11, 2015, by the Manhattan Contemporary Chamber Ensemble; Pen Yan, NY
Contact me for performance materials.
"Fire and Ice 3"
Artist: Sheldon Berlyn
I was approached in 2014 by Richard Auldon Clark to compose a piece for a special concert he was planning for his summer chamber music festival. The idea was simple: a concert of new music for string quartet inspired by works from Finger Lakes-area artists. As a visual designer and choreographer for marching bands and colorguards, this was an immediately attractive project as much of my daily work involves the synthesis of the musical and the visual. This project also coincided with a marching band arrangement commission for a competition show based on the works of Jackson Pollock. Musical and visual synthesis was clearly on my mind.
After selecting the artwork ("Fire and Ice 3," by Sheldon Berlyn), I began searching for musical materials to represent the primary elements of the painting: scalar figures for blue, melodic fragments for red, unsettled clusters for black, and soft dynamics for the canvas.
I wrote the piece entirely as an aural description of the visual elements presented. It wasn't until after its completion, and while searching for an appropriate title, that I consulted the Robert Frost poem I believe the painting is based on. Having only a passing knowledge of the famous poem's existence, I was immediately struck by its fifth line and the extreme flexibility and duality contained within those seven short words "But if it had to perish twice." It was this affirmation of uncertainty that planted itself into my thoughts over the course of a few days. It seemed to reflect the uncertain tonal inflections in the musical material I had committed to paper.
- Michael Henson
"Fire and Ice," by Robert Frost
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.