Book of Love

Instrumentation flute, Bb clarinet (dbl. Bb bass clarinet), violin, violoncello, percussion, piano (dbl. temple bowl)
Percussion requirements 5-8ve marimba, snare drum, medium tom-tom, small bass drum, tambourine, whip, ratchet, wooden toy train whistle, small triangle, large “dinner bell” triangle, temple bowl (Note: pianist also needs a temple bowl, preferably identical to the percussionist’s)

Timing ca. 61′, in nine chapters

Composed 2015

Commissioned by Kokoro Dance with assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts

World Premiere November 25, 2015, Roundhouse, Vancouver, British Columbia. Standing Wave (Christie Reside, flute; AK Coope, clarinets; Rebecca Whitling, violin; Olivia Blander, violoncello; Vern Griffiths, percussion; Allen Stiles, piano). Choreography by Jay Hirabayashi and Barbara Bourget, danced by Barbara Bourget, Jay Hirabayashi, Molly McDermott and Billy Marchenski. Set and costume design by Jonathan Baldock. Lighting design by Gerald King

Programme Notes

“The Book of Love is the body” (Barbara Bourget)

When Jay Hirabayashi and Barbara Bourget of Kokoro Dance asked me to compose the music for its newest large-scale project, of course I jumped at the opportunity. I had worked with Kokoro during my composer-in-residence days at the Vancouver Symphony, joining forces for live music and dance productions. Barbara had choreographed several of my existing works, leaving me in awe. And in this new project the music would be performed live on stage by Standing Wave, an amazing group I knew well and had written for before. Would I mix that all into one major collaboration? In a word: yes!

Book of Love is a multi-movement exploration of love’s many manifestations and dimensions. The ways it drives us. The ways we seek it. The ways it evolves. The ways time changes our experience of it. Its nine chapters are combined into three couples and one “throuple”. In the first chapter Entrances, the ritual sounds of temple bowls from the percussion and piano underscore the flute, clarinet, violin and violoncello, which each enter the scene individually but say the same thing (a slowed-down transcribed reading of John Donne’s A Lecture Upon the Shadow). Just as those four come together, they are torn apart by Devil’s Work, with its mad fiddling of temptation. The next couple begins with the flute and clarinet in Searching, flowing directly into Promenade, where couples court in a display of preening Renaissance-tinged birdsong. Rising conveys an almost painfully slow unfolding, each moment delicately metamorphosing into the next, while Setting expresses loss and loneliness through the low murmuring of the marimba and the wail of the high cello. Finally, the throuple of Drive, Memory and Instinct juxtaposes the obsession and hormones of a new beginning with remembrance, connection and the depth of feeling that comes from shared history.

Book of Love is dedicated to Barbara Bourget and Jay Hirabayashi in celebration of Kokoro’s 30th anniversary season.

Reviews

Throughout, the music not only sets the time and place but also astounds with beauty.… Slow, sustained butoh movement becomes mesmerizing as the music takes over with its melodic certitude. There’s always something to watch, listen to, get lost in. (Andrea Rabinovitch/Dance Current)

[S]pecial mention must be made of Ryan’s score. The process behind Book of Love was unusual: creators Bourget and Hirabayashi set their movement to a mix of rock and pop tunes, which were then erased so that the former Vancouver Symphony Orchestra composer in residence could add his own new-music touch. Perhaps this is why Book of Love offers the most rhythmically compelling music I’ve heard from Ryan, played by performers who were fully in synch with his ambition. (Alexander Varty/Georgia Straight)

…a dynamic original score by Jeffrey Ryan that is performed live by the Standing Wave Ensemble, and that builds dramatically in tempo and tone… (Peter Dickinson/PerformancePlacePolitics.blogspot.ca)

PDF score excerpt

Devil’s Work excerpt     Searching excerpt     Setting excerpt     Memory excerpt     Instinct excerpt

Video

A video promotional teaser:

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