Of Memory for orchestra (2009)

by Bruce Christian Bennett

I. Erato

II. Terpsichore

III. Euterpe

Download the score: Of_Memory.pdf (I and II)

Of Memory was composed for Joana Carneiro and the Berkeley Symphony as part of the 2009–2010 Under Construction program, supported in part by a grant from the Meet the Composer Creative Connections fund.

Of Memory consists of three short pieces for orchestra that can be played separately or together.

Of Memory I is inspired by the Greek muse Erato, the muse of lyric or erotic poetry. The piece opens up out of an initial F in the horn and an A in the oboe, proceeds though several waves of harmonic transformation (sometimes gentle and sometimes violent) lead by lyrical melodic fragments (mostly in the winds), and finally evaporates up through an arpeggiated F dominant seventh chord to a very high G in the clarinet at the end.

Of Memory II is inspired by the Greek muse of dance, Terpsichore. While the first piece, Of Memory I: Erato, is concerned with harmony, the second piece, Of Memory II: Terpsichore, is primarily concerned with rhythm. Terpsichore starts with a vigorous 6/8 at a brisk tempo as our muse dances, spinning and twirling. Intoxicated with the dance, the rhythm struggles between groupings of threes and fours. With fleeting moments of delirium, our muse pauses to regain her balance and we hear fragmented quotations from François Couperin’s 17th century keyboard work of the same name (“La Terpsichore”). Finally, she spins wildly, out of control, and then falls to earth in repose and reverie.

Compositionally, Of Memory is based on an underlying structural melody that provides not only melodic profile, but also form and harmonic content. This structural melody is not heard explicitly throughout most of the composition, though it does surface at a few points in the piece. From this Ur-melody, significant structural pitches are identified and then used to generate harmonies and modes based on simple frequency modulation synthesis algorithms. The resulting sequence of harmonic fields creates what could be thought of as a musical topography, which is navigated by the acts of composing, playing, and listening.

Performance History