Confession is for percussion quartet and tape. The tape part is a series of recitations spoken by the composer and taken from her own letters and journal entries. Confessing is not confined to its religious meaning: the admission of sin. These excerpts constitute a self-conscious probing into the private thoughts of the composer, now publicly de-constructed. These musings can be whimsical, trivial, ridiculous, and thought-provoking, while dealing explicitly with issues of creativity and self doubt. The addition of digital processing sometimes adds another layer of meaning to the text. Through pitch shifting, the voice acquires a humorous tone, sometimes verging on grotesque self-ridicule. These effects can be so heavy as to render the voice incomprehensible.
“The hope is that the music can be more interesting than the words, and the listener will pay more attention to the music. Sometimes the music leaves no option: the percussionists drown out the speaker’s ramblings in objection,” says Hall. In this way Confession dramatizes the composer’s own disillusionment through self-analysis: she uncovers the narcissistic and insignificant part of her (and our) everyday thoughts. All the while, the music takes a meandering path, adorned with beautiful and dream-like sounds recorded in enormous distillation tanks. “A major theme of the piece is the rather fine line between the serious and the unserious,” says Hall. The listener’s quandary is to determine when the voice is sincere, self-mocking or merely sound material. By hovering ambiguously over these boundaries the distinctions between them become dissolved. It is hard to imagine a more introspective music.
Confession is an interesting piece, existing on several layers. … For the audience, the first impression is likely the curious, often humorous nature of the pre-recorded text. After first listening, the more serious aspects of the text become apparent and we are left with a more melancholic feeling. We realize that we are peeking into the private thoughts of someone. I found myself trying to piece together a narrative or perhaps even conduct an analysis of the confessor as I listened to the work.
In Confession, like much of Hall’s work, there is a pristine outer layer of sound that covers an underlying depth of thought. Like the composer herself, this outward smile and good cheer belies a sober, introspective interior.
-D'Arcy Philip Gray, percussionist,
director of the McGill Percussion Ensemble
Percussion Instrument List:
Surdo - or small bass drum
Canadian Composer Emily Hall / Compositeur canadienne Emily Hall
Email / Courriel: Emily Hall