PARABOLA AQUILENCE

2014

Bass baritone and instrumental ensemble (9 musicians)
2 saxophones, double bassoon, piston cornet, 1 percussionist, accordion, chromatic and third tone zitars, harp and double bass

DURATION • 17 minutes

EDITOR •  Edited by the composer

COMMISSION •  The French State

WORLD PREMIERE • May 17, 2014 at the Opéra de Marseille during Les Matins-Sonnants, Festival Les Musiques, with Jean-Manuel Candenot (bass) and Ensemble C Barré, conducted by Sébastien Boin

Envisager le Vautour Kafkaesque
Micro-opera for bass and 9 musicians

 

The prophetic powers of Franz Kafka’s prose are not a new idea and are often discussed from different angles. The life and death of Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, has become, a hundred years after it was published along with most of his prose, an icon of modern western culture. For many, Kafka’s art has become an important intellectual and mental instrument in their desperate attempts to understand or at least contain post war existence. Today It’s resonance is as clear and relevant as ever, in context of the digitally controlled social machine in which we all live. Throughout history the Aquilla or eagle (often the name which refers to the hunting vulture) has been a symbol of power and authority, from the Roman Empire through the days of the American Revolution and up to the third Reich.

 

Der Geier (Le Vautour) a short piece of prose by Kafka is one of a series of animal parables. It attracted me as a text pregnant with prophetic and hermeneutic potential which activates many sympathetic strings in our contemporary mental world of struggles, pains, humor and dilemmas.

Only the very end of the Kafka story appears in my Parabola Aquillence in its original German text (see quote below). The main body of the libretto, I have composed by devising a wide range linguistic pallet of imaginary “words” and their sounds, gestures, and isolated syllables that were often modified to suite my musical and theatrical needs. Thus the singer and the other nine actor-musicians, present to us a micro opera suggesting perhaps that the real “text” is actually Meta semantic, and what is really relevant to us is in the meaning of the parables and prophesies. It is the emotional and intellectual resonance within our personal and collective culture and memory which is important to sustain.

The piece is scored for an amplified Bass singer and nine instrumentalists: two soprano saxophones and a cornet, one percussionist using a variety of instruments including sea shells and wood boxes, a Zitherist playing on a chromatic zither as well as one tuned in 13 tones, a harpist, an accordionist, a contra bassoonist and a double bass player.

 

…During this conversation the vulture had been calmly listening, letting its eye rove between me and the gentleman. Now I realized that it had understood everything; it took wing, leaned far back to gain impetus, and then, like a javelin thrower, thrust its beak through my mouth, deep into me. Falling back, I was relieved to feel him drowning irretrievably in my blood, which was filling every depth, flooding every shore.

 

Benjamin Franklin wrote about the Eagle (Aquilla):
I wish that the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country, he is a bird of bad moral character, he does not get his living honestly, when a diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to its nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him.... Besides he is a rank coward; the little kingbird, not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest . . . of America