Saturday, 11 September 2010

Remembering 9/11 Wuorinen

The moment everyone heard about 9/11 is branded on our memories. The most powerful memory for me was hearing the victims phoning out messages of love. Not hate, not hysteria. For a while, I hoped that this might be a turning point in history, where we created a world where people don't need to resort to hate to resolve things. Ten years on, we're all in a much more paranoid place, psychosis affecting all aspects of our lives. The plotters won becauase they infected our minds like a poison that can't stop replicating.

In a very different world from what we have now, when things seemed optimistic, a major financial publisher commissioned Charles Wuorinen's Cyclops. The name is a play on Cyclops of ancient myth, who had one giant eye and could only see straight ahead. Hence, it’s written on a single constant metre. The real drama, though, comes from what Cyclops does with his single eye, or rather what Wuorinen does, within the constraints of the metre. The music proceeds in fits and starts, jerking from side to side, switching from rapid tempo to moments of still contemplation. Textures vary: sometimes soloists pulling out from the ensemble, sometimes duetting and exchanging partners in further duets. This gives the piece a strong sense of movement, even though it rises from a simple, single line. There's a recording with the London Sinfonietta, where Oliver Knussen drawstogether the disparate figures, so the piece moves forward like a quirky, joyous procession, all elements moving in relation to each other, always headed towards a goal.

The publishing house whose boss commissioned Cyclops had offices in the Twin Towers, many of their staff were killed.  Everyone knows someone who knew someone, so we can identify personally with Twin Towers more easily than with  the millions far away who've died since. So what I want to think of is the messages of love, which might have meant a turning point in another way.

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