Fictions for Ensemble

Fictions for ensemble was written in 2014 for the Stony Brook Contemporary Music Players, and premiered by them in November 2015, at Stony Brook University and Roulette, Brooklyn, NY.

This set of three pieces is scored for Schoenberg’s classic Pierrot Lunaire ensemble, which went on to acquire a central role, perhaps one approaching that of the classical string quartet, during the later 20th Century. I have not written a work for the flute/clarinet/violin/cello/piano mix since my Aurora Borealis, written in my 20’s, so I eagerly took the opportunity to revisit this sound-world.

The three pieces are diverse in their atmosphere and means; each seeks to create a world in which that of the other two cannot be imagined. For this reason they bear a title borrowed from Jorge Luis Borges’ story collection Ficciones: Borges had a particular interest in the evocation of imagined worlds, something that seems to me to be the very task before the composer: what else is the crafting of a musical score but the expressive-expansive postulating of an imaginary world? I was reading Ficciones at the time of planning the work (and, indeed, still am reading it in a sense, since my copy suddenly disappeared in mid-reading. This might appeal to the author, whose character in another story tries to lose ‘The Book of Sand’, a book with no end, in the Buenos Aires National Library).

One piece is short and fast, exploring a dual texture of two lines (one high and one low), that dove-tail to make up in a helter-skelter for the band. A second piece alternates a series of individual solo cadenzas with elaborate sections for quintet, texturally busy but each built on a static harmony; the third piece is a quilt of separate musical ideas, each introducing the next and gradually unfolding a road-trip to a place far removed from the start. Fictions is dedicated with admiration to my friend Perry Goldstein.

Piers Hellawell c 2015