Snows & Agape Aria – 17th & 18th March
First the latter – on Friday Agape Aria is being performed as part of a Vaganza‘s ‘Next Generation’ concert, a collaboration with the University of York’s new music ensemble Chimera. My piece is for an oboe and three percussionists (from Manchester), and a string sextet (from York). Here’s the programme note:
Agape Aria was written as a piece for two ensembles that would meet on the day of the concert. It features an oboe and three percussionists that present most of the musical material, with a string sextet positioned around the edge of the stage acting first as a resonating chamber, then increasingly taking a more active role.
The character of the piece is loosely inspired by the ancient Greek notion of agape, as set out particularly in the New Testament. Its generally used translation is ‘love’, but is distinct from the love one might have for family, friends or partners. It is unearned, unconditional, unrewarded and unending – philosopher Slavoj Žižek describes it as ‘political love’, for it requires the renunciation of any favour towards family, friends and loved ones (as Christ says in Luke’s Gospel, ‘If anyone come to me and does not hate his father and his mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple’).
This notion of an eternal, unchanging quality laced with a concomitant undertone of violence has for a while fascinated me, and this piece tries to exhibit these characteristics. There’s something quite claustrophobic and savage about this most beautiful of notions – like a good piece of music, agape as a concept is compelling and beautiful yet unsettling and ambiguous.
It’s the final item in the evening concert at the Cosmo Rodewald Hall, Manchester – the evening also features compositions by York composers Manos Panayiotakis, Benjamin Gait and Azlee Babar, Manchester composers Steven Calver, Rebecca Luck, Soojung Park, Simon Joyner, Francesca Le Lohé and Jasmin Rodgman, plus another work for the two ensembles by York composer Desmond Clarke. Incidentally, on Thursday there will be a Composers Forum at 4.15 at the Martin Harris Centre where Desmond and myself will each give talks on our experience writing for this collaboration, and there will be a roundtable discussion on the possibilities of cross-collaboration in the 21st century.
Before that, on Thursday Eduardo Portal conducts the Manchester Camerata and Bella Hardy in my arrangement of The Snows they Melt the Soonest at Manchester’s Band On The Wall. The night will also feature arrangements by Stephen Hyde, John Conway, Michael Cutting, Pichpiran Supatravanij and David Futers, as well as a performance of Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs by the Camerata and Rebecca Lea, and a straight folk set by Bella Hardy. Details are here.