The Music of Eugene O'Brien
Indiana University New Music Ensemble
Black Fugatos was commissioned by the Halcyon Ensemble, a chamber group formed by members of the Cleveland Orchestra (Martha Aarons, Laura Okuniewski, Gino Raffaelli, Gary Stucka and Richard Weiner), and was first performed in Severance Hall by the Ensemble in May 1983. The character of the music - a dark and somber web of counterpoint - is evoked by the two words of the title, which I found in a poem by Wallace Stevens only after the music had been completed.
Except at certain prominent moments, the score is unsynchronized: the players are rhythmically and metrically independent of each other, and the individual parts are coordinated by a system of visual cues. The entire piece is restricted to a very limited compass of pitch, register, and dynamics. Each instrument, either by its very nature or the manner in which it is played, is muted and suppressed. Within these confines, however, each performer is asked to play with great intensity. The effect made by the piece in live performance is utterly different from a recording; absent the crucial visual element of a performance and the physical distance of the ensemble from the audience, we decided somewhat paradoxically to simulate the muted intensity of a concert performance by miking the players very closely.
The black fugatos are strumming the blacknesses of black -
The thick strings stutter the finial gutturals.
- Wallace Stevens, Madame La Fleurie