The submerging city : for cello and piano
by Eve Duncan (2007)
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During the late afternoon of a summer heat wave in Melbourne, there was a feeling of a change brewing. The heat-laden moist air, carrying the sound of insects and birds murmuring and twittering expectantly, was tense with anticipation.
I spoke by phone to Melbourne artist Jon Cattapan from my home near the Yarra River in Templestowe, twelve kilometers from his home in St Kilda by the waters of Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne. Cool breezes had already reached the seaside, as well as the first large drops of rain. Not longer after we put the phone down, the rain turned into a summer deluge, flooding the city and swamping cars in the streets.
Some time later I came across Jon's beautiful paintings of a city, perhaps Melbourne, submerged in sea and water. Skyscrapers were visible through mist and vapour, which gave the city a mythological atmosphere.
Jon's paintings, and the coincidence of speaking with him just before a deluge, inspired this musical fantasy. The first heavy, joyful drops of rain after summer heat lead to flooding rain which does not stop, but which begins to entirely flood a city. No-one seems to notice. The bustle in the streets continues unabated. Life goes on; with the noises of emergency vehicles and traffic penetrating through the water.
The Submerging City is a fantasy. It conjures an imagination brought on by strong rain after a long, hot dry spell. First, the rain arrives in heavy droplets, gradually becoming steadier. Then the rain turns to a heavy deluge that floods the city streets.
In this fantasy, the flooding continues to rise over the high buildings, and yet the people continue their city life, oblivious of the fact that the city is drowned. Under huge swells of water, the sirens and horns of busy traffic are heard. City life continues unabated.
The drops of rain on the hot dry city surfaces
are created by staccato, sfzorzando piano notes, with cello
pizzicato. The increase in rain is matched by single notes
turning into chords in the piano. Rhythmically, there is a touch
of jazz rhythms with grace notes and dotted rhythms, to evoke a
feeling of urban life.
The articulations soften and become more legato as the deluge turns into flooding. The cello is now bowed.
The quintuplets and triplet feel of modern jazz evoke the snap of the city.
They also evoke surging waves and underwater currents.
Sforzando crotchet chords evoke car horns.
Repetitive quavers evoke ambulance sirens, echoed from piano to cello.
City life continues in this underwater city.
Instrumentation: Cello, piano.
Duration: 6 min.
Winner or First Prize in the International Music Prize for Excellence in Composition (Greece)
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