Symphony for Susan Logoreci

ENS.118 | 2.27.10-3.27.10 | 15’
2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Trumpets, Harp, Piano, 2 Cellos, 2 Basses

Midi Rendition of Mov. 1: Façade
Midi Rendition of Mov. 2: Hieratic
Midi Rendition of Mov. 3: Whirling

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Symphony for Susan Logoreci

  1. Façade
  2. Hieratic
  3. Whirling

After completing Symphony for Ammi Phillips, I knew I wanted to explore further in that direction, but it was more than six frustrating months before I found a way forward. Although the sound of an ensemble and a general shape had been in my head for a while, the exact construction of the work eluded me – I needed some good old-fashioned inspiration of the sort that hit me when I saw the Ammi Phillips exhibition.

Except that inspiration didn’t come. So I filled sheets of music paper with scribbles, pads of graph paper with numbers, gradually coming up with each of the individual elements needed to describe a piece. To link this work with its predecessor I decided to use the same harmonic structure, although layered more complexly and differently organized, trusting that a new sound-world would suggest something sufficiently differentiated and able to stand on its own.

From the beginning I had three movements in mind. First, a straightforward melodic polyphony, but obsessively decorated, like Islamic art or a terracotta frieze. This would be followed by a monumental slow movement, great blocks of sound shimmering and grating against one another while archaic dance-music makes itself heard in the distance. To end, small cells would whirl and dance themselves into a brittle luminescence like flickering florescent light.

The overall metaphor I had in mind was: architectural. But I also wanted something brightly colored and flat, seemingly without perspective, like Matisse or medieval manuscripts. Then suddenly I finally had the flash of inspiration that had so long eluded me. Architecture – bright colors – Susan Logoreci!

I had first seen her drawings in McSweeney’s No. 20, the Art Issue, where her suburban subdivision and container ship leapt straight from the pages into my brain. With colored pencils she draws immense visions of cities situated in endless whiteness, planes of brilliant color twisting and floating on otherwise empty pages. As a New Yorker, one work that particularly gets me is an angled view of the city from a vantage somewhere near the top of the Time Warner Center, except where Central Park would be is a vast expanse of white. It is simultaneously gorgeous and a little eerie. Although this piece does not depict any of her works per se, I think they share a certain perspective and creative impulse.

Symphony for Susan Logoreci is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, trumpets, cellos and basses with harp and piano, creating a sound focused on high and low sonorities but capable of considerable warmth in the middle. As in Symphony for Ammi Phillips, the first movement’s harmonies use tetrachords following strict rules of counterpoint. But in the second movement a transposition is added, and in the third another, so that by the end the work is harmonically fairly complex; I was thinking of an organ’s resonant sonority (and I can’t pretend I haven’t been studying a bunch of spectral scores lately either). As planned, the three movements are titled Façade, Hieratic, and Whirling, and the piece as a whole lasts about fifteen minutes.