Charlotte Symphony Premieres new work by Prof. Jennifer Stasack
A work of visual art titled Crossing Rivers, by sculptor Cort Savage, inspired a series of musical compositions bearing the same title. The artwork presented a poignant image of a bodhisattva (an enlightened being that remains in the human world to help others) toting a load across a river, the burden silently, willingly and steadily carried. For the composer, the scene evoked sentiments of admiration and humility, and compassion for the suffering inevitable to the human condition. The image of crossing a river presented a natural metaphor for the transformative journey arising out of embracing adversity. This paradigm serves as the basis for creating and handling musical materials in the Crossing Rivers works. In each, a process unfolds in which a central idea orbits within both sympathetic and conflicting environments, and a metamorphosis of one sort or another obtains.
Crossing Rivers V is the first in the series to be scored for a large ensemble. The core idea, borrowed from the Prelude of Crossing Rivers IV, consists of three components: a five-beat ostinato pattern in the piano establishing a static, cluster-based sonority, a stepwise rising bass line in the cellos moving in a four beat pattern, and a slow, gentle melody in the violas which unfolds within 13- and 17-beat phrases. Additional secondary layers float among these primary components, all moving simultaneously within their autonomous metric cycles to create a constantly shifting, kaleidoscopic balance between them. Heightened musical meaning arises when there is a convergence of important structural points in all layers, forming a unified sense of arrival and order.
The overall form can be understood as two varied presentations of the core idea framed, on each end and in between, by a recurring contrasting idea that is, itself, varied. Shared source material links these two structural elements. The first statement of the core idea, direct and transparent, contrasts with the second statement, which emerges within a texture that gradually thickens to include over ten independent, and often clashing, strata. Embedded within this rendering are well-known melodies having cultural associations with rivers. This serves as a kind of signifier of the larger collective within which the personal might be measured, differentiated, comforted, validated and nourished.
Central to all works in the series is repetition. From the smallest motivic level to the largest structural level, the nature of this repetition ultimately takes the form of cyclic treatment of materials, serving as a musical metaphor for perseverance, endurance, growth and refinement.
Crossing Rivers V was commissioned by the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Christof Perick, Music Director. The premiere performance will be in the Duke Family Performance Hall, Davidson College, under the direction of Alan Yamamoto, Resident Conductor of the CSO.