Arcuare (2007)

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Premiered May 8, 2007 by the American Composers Orchestra, Paul Lustig Dunkel dir. at the 2007 Underwood New Music Readings, Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, NYU, New York, New York


Arcuare for orchestra was composed in the fall of 2006. Its title, an Italian verb meaning ‘to arch, bend or bow,’ figuratively describes a simple gestural impulse that shapes the work in a variety of ways and in virtually every musical domain. In the most literal sense, the surface of the work contains innumerable small arcuate forms. Arching melodic figures, symmetrical dynamic curves, orchestrational and contrapuntal patterns, and progressions from textural clarity to obscurity and back all reiterate this basic idea, although many of these smaller shapes are broken or incomplete. 
The formal design of the piece does betray some degree of outward symmetry, but the work is not cast in an “arch form.” Rather, the shape of the piece is informed by a different understanding of its title. Here, “to bend or bow” is to bow down, to relent, to submit to forces both external and internal, both direct and oblique. There is a measure of inevitability, unity, and even necessity in the sweep of this gesture which I wanted to express in the work.
In a sense, this piece is the last in a group of works that I wrote based on Euripides’ tragedy Bacchae, a text with which I was closely involved for much of 2006. Some of the material in Arcuare originated as incidental music for a production of this play, and it exerted a dramatic, narrative, and conceptual force that influenced my thinking about the shape of the work and its internal relationships, tensions, and resolutions.

Arcuare was read by the American Composers Orchestra on May 8-9, 2007 in the 16th annual Underwood New Music Reading at the Skirball Center for Performing Arts, NYU.