composition vi - the kandinsky project
for flute, clarinet and cello / 2016
This piece is based on the painting with the same title by Wassily Kandinsky. The painting is essentially about the disaster of a flood. A muddy and loud opening with all three instruments clustered at their lowest registers depicts the dark brown and “hopeless” top left corner of the painting, which could be understood as the beginning of the disaster. The cello then introduces the warm and nostalgic yet somewhat desperate-sounding theme of a stepwise motion up then down depicting the pink left centre, before playing violent figures and triggering the flooding in descending motions played by the flute and clarinet. The flute then initiates a series of extended tertian sonorities in arpeggios, painting what I feel is the green and hollow lower right section of the painting, while the clarinet reiterates the theme from the opening section, eventually developing into a weak and depressed state of endless tranquility and solitude. The aggressive character of the third centre is exemplified by the sudden burst of piercing noises, with the instruments playing madly and imitate the scratches of sharp lines. Lastly, the flute and clarinet start a canon of air sounds, inspired by the steamy third centre of the painting, to portray a scene in ruins and ashes. A dimple stream of light pierces the darkness as the cello plucks a steady pulse of repeated notes, as if in the aftermath of total destruction arises a new heart beat. On top of this pulse emerges the chorale in the flute and clarinet, who transform the "pink" theme into song of prayers. By now, the warm theme introduced by the cello in the beginning has been extended through the whole piece and hold the structure standing, much like Kandinsky achieving a unifying tone in Composition VI with scattered pink spots. A Palestrina-like authentic cadence brings the chorale to a sacred state of peace and seems to hint a new born hope, until the tonic chord after the cadence dissolves into dissonant darkness again, leaving the future unpredicted. The net result is a piece of composition faithful to the painting yet independent as a wholesome piece of music, a piece which I hope is both something new and a nod to the time of Kandinsky.
The Meraki Chamber Players:
Natasha Loomis, flute; bass flute
Alexander Knox, clarinet in Bb
Terrence Thornhill, cello
Recorded live as part of the Kandinsky Project in Shapeshifter Lab, New York City, 21 April 2016.
Copyright © Zi-Xiao He 2014