The Winter Journey

commissioned by Yarn/Wire

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Work for two pianos and percussion based on the short story of the same name by George Perec.

Yarn/Wire is a quartet of two percussionists and two pianists, an instrumental combination allows the ensemble flexibility to slip effortlessly between classics and modern works that continue to work towards the emergence of a new and lasting repertoire that is "spare and strange and very, very new." (Time Out NY)

The work draws inspiration from a minor masterpiece of 20th century literature, George Perec's 'The Winter Journey.' Not quite scholarship and not quite magical fabulism, the story recounts the sad tale of a young scholar who finds the key to modern literature, a lost book seemingly the source and inspiration of every major French poet from Rimbaud to Mallarme. Once discovered, the text disappears, lost to the displacements of war and the weathering of time. The scholar is left to a life of searching through libraries and ruins, forever seeking the recovery of a literary mystery and of a world briefly glimpsed.

The narrative will be represented in textures and effect, character and affect, in 30-40 minute episodes. : the scholar Vernier's arrival; the discovery in the library; the intervention of war and return and loss; the search for the text. These tableaux will be woven together with musical quotations and reference, as well as dramatic distribution and redistribution of musicians in the space of performance.

The text suggests referencing and appropriation of other musical works and composers— Debussy, Fauré, Ravel, Britten, and of course Schubert. The instrumentation opens access to repertoire for two pianos, piano four hands, and piano and percussion– Bartok, of course, but also Messiaen, Berio and Crumb. Continuing Perec's fanciful historical invention, the piece will also present 'quotations' of well known but non-existent works; the sonata of Vinteuil from Proust’s 'Remembrance of Things Past' and the chamber music of Adrian Leverkühn from Thomas Mann’s 'Doctor Faustus.'

Delicate percussion will be counterposed with ferocious technical pianism, together creating textural and formal layers over the course of the piece; solos, duos, trios, quartets emerge and dissolve into one another as an ensemble, but also as traces of the past, a history both real and imagined. Perec's imaginative playfulness is inverted, now inventing not a source or origin for a new body of literature, but a network of pieces with influences and appropriations historical and fictional.