- clarinet in b-flat
- percussion (vibraphone, wood block, large tibetan singing bowl)
Pan’s hour, the faunal noon.
A dead sea in a dead land, grey and old.
Torn strip of envelope.
Last act of Lucia.
Witless shellfish swam in the gross lenses, to and fro.
Like a mortuary chapel. Prepare to receive cavalry.
“Certainly, certainly, certainly.”
Orient immortal, everlasting to everlasting.
By bronze, by gold, in oceangreen of shadow.
God’s air, scintillant, circumambient, cessile.
… glancing eyes a lattice hid for her lover to kiss the iron
and the wineshops half open at night
and the castanets
and the night we missed the boat at Algeciras the watchman going about serene with his lamp
and O that awful deepdown torrent O
and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire
and the glorious sunsets
and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens
and all the queer little streets
and the pink and blue and yellow houses
and the rosegardens
and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses
and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain
when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used
or shall I wear a red
and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall
and I thought well as well him as another
and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again
and then he asked me would I
to say yes
my mountain flower
and first I put my arms around him
and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume
and his heart was going like mad
and yes I said
yes I will
Within a few decades of its appearance nearly a century ago, James Joyce’s Ulysses had come to be viewed as an effective summation of modernism per se – an encapsulation of an entire aesthetic movement. But by the turn of the 21st century a new interpretative paradigm arose, shaped by the computer, information and internet age: that of Ulysses as a proto-hypertext, flattened to the form of the printed page. This view, in which the innumerable references and allusions of Joyce’s novel are understood as a web pointing in all directions and dimensions, virtually explodes the work by virtue of its non-linearity. Capsule’s distinctive experimental approach to this iconic text is informed by such recent conceptions of its structures of meaning and implication; yet, rather than opening it further, it reduces and selects via another, essentially oppositional technology of the internet age: the search algorithm. It thus encapsulates each of the novel’s 18 episodes, from its opening conversation to its closing interior monologue, within a representative textual fragment, out of which many of Joyce’s most potent recurring words and images emerge with the effect of ritual. This selective mechanism echoes the structure of that through which Capsule’s pitch material is also chosen, similarly distilled from the larger tone spectrum. Against this structural distillation, the potential plenitude of textual sonority and significance is allowed to resonate within the music’s metric oscillations, implied by its unfurling rhythms, and its scintillating profusion of instrumental and vocal timbres. - Sherry Lee
Capsule was written with the support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.
This piece was premiered by soprano Carla Huhtanen and Arraymusic, conductor Rick Sacks, on April 5th, 2016 at Array Space in Toronto.