Whispering lunar incantations


(prepared hp)(7’)

Program Note:

for Melissa Achten and the Darmstadt Summer Courses (prepared hp) (2023, rev. 2024) (7’) (panel II of Triptych I)

“Twelve o’clock.
Along the reaches of the street
Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory
And all its clear relations,
Its divisions and precisions…”
— T.S. Eliot, from “Rhapsody on a Windy Night”

Many of my recent works deal with perception and experience of memory. The impreciseness and unpredictability of memory is crucial to music on each level of composer, performer, and listener. Each time a memory is recalled, the brain must reconstruct it. In this piece, musical materials and types of gestures on the prepared harp emerge, recur, and are transformed and remembered (or repressed and misremembered) in a variety of ways. I view it as both a study for the instrument and a meditation on memory, which exists on a different plane of time than lived time.

This piece is the middle panel of my Triptych I, between Negative Capability (2020) for electric guitar, and Ramification (2021) for percussion. All three pieces deal with similar types of gestures (scratching, scraping, bowing), albeit in drastically different contexts and forms, and with drastically different sounding results. Remembering and reinvention of space and time is central to this cycle of pieces.

Whispering lunar incantations was composed for and in close collaboration over four days with harpist Melissa Achten at and for the 2023 Darmstadt Summer Courses. Many thanks to Melissa for her collaboration, expertise, and enthusiasm, as well as tutors Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir and Sarah Nemtsov for creating such a creatively stimulating and supportive workshop. Revisions took place in 2024.




Performance History:

  • World Premiere, 11 August 2023, Darmstadt Summer Courses; Melissa Achten, prepared harp