My father, once a Maryland music major himself, asked me for a summary of my Wind Orchestra experience.
“I like the Dutilleux,” I said. “It sounds like death, but less than the Gubaidulina.” Or, I almost said that; my section has taken to pronouncing the composers’ names something like, “Dut-dut-dut” and “Gublahblah.”
I have to say, I didn’t get it at first. At that point, I had only listened to the beginning of the first movement of the Dutilleux, which sounds chaotic and even vengeful. Even now, I can hear the violins screeching in my head. Our handwritten parts, which could not be easily divided between us, were daunting and sometimes out of the range of the instruments. I was not optimistic.
But my dad insisted we listen to the rest of the recording together. When we did, I realized something. It sounds… like stars. I mean, really, if stars made a sound, they would sound like this piece. This is before I knew of its connection to Van Gogh’s famous painting “Starry Night,” or had noticed the names of the movements. (Movement II is called Constellations. Go figure.) The piece takes on a sort of order within disorder in this way, becoming less a piece of music and more a series of images. It is truly a work of art, though it may at times seem as incomprehensible as the cosmos it embodies.
For the record, I haven’t changed my mind about the Gubaidulina. That’s a sort of disorder I haven’t yet grasped.
-Arielle Miller, percussion