This composition was originally part of a larger project for a GEMS (Group of the Electronic Music Studio of McGill University) Xenakis tribute concert of which I was co-curator. We chose Iannis Xenakis' Charisma (1971) for clarinet and cello, and invited GEMS composers to independently compose short variations on this composition which could include any combination of clarinet, cello, piano, percussion, and electronics.  For the concert, the original Charisma was performed, followed by five uninterrupted variations. 


Below the original Charisma score title appears a Greek inscription from Homer’s The Iliad.  Xenakis evidently bases his piece on the meaning behind this phrase, and so, my particular variation takes inspiration directly from these words more so than from Xenakis’ musical interpretation.  It is not only inspired by their meaning, but also by their literal, abstract sound: “then the soul like smoke moved into the earth, grinding.”  Thanks to Catherina Pirpira for her help with the Greek.   


The inscription appears in French and English, and also in “caveman” Greek.  My Greek-speaking assistant, Catherina Pirpira, found a Homer scholar in her community, who found where this was in the book, and read the original Ancient Greek (and also everyday Greek) versions.  Apparently the Greek version takes on a different shade of meaning.  Instead of grinding we get flitting, like the flitting of birds.  I felt that the English version of the phrase - using grinding - has a more industrial, mechanical appeal, something which I think is apparent in the original Xenakis composition.  So, while bringing the text directly into my variation, from which the original music got its inspiration, the music and the manipulation of the words in my variation becomes a commentary on these two elements: industrial (grinding – of metal, of machinery) vs. natural (flitting of birds, in amazingly large groups).  However they are not necessarily juxtaposed.




...ripping piano chords in contrast with the obsessive drive of clarinet … with cello, piano, percussion ending in murmuring vocalized percussion.


–alcides lanza, composer, pianist

Canadian Composer Emily Hall / Compositeur canadienne Emily Hall

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