Instrumentation SSATBarB voices and piano trio (violin, violoncello and piano)
Timing 40′ in nine movements
Poems by Michael Redhill
Commissioned by the Gryphon Trio in partnership with Chamber Factory for Nordic Voices and the Gryphon Trio, with support from Joyce Miller in honour of the Gryphon Trio’s 25th anniversary, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Sounds of Science Commissioning Club
World Premiere February 1, 2019, Dominion-Chalmers Church, Ottawa, Ontario. Nordic Voices and the Gryphon Trio
Every scar—whether physical, emotional, geological, environmental, or cultural—is the end of a three-stage journey. When the body is wounded, it responds with a series of biological processes. Yet when the healing is complete, it is not returned to its original state. No matter the cause, the resulting scar represents a third state, a “new normal” which allows the body to continue yet carries with it the memory of the past wound.
Scar Tissue for six voices and piano trio takes the listener from unity through disruption to healing. Michael Redhill’s concise and evocative poetry unfolds in two parallel processes. Its nine movements are a mirrored mathematical pattern of lines and syllables, while Redhill’s own words are increasingly interwoven with words and fragments from other poets, artfully blending emotion and science to reflect the universality and interconnectedness of this journey. The music has its own similar trajectory, beginning with the entire ensemble moving together (“This is who I am, this body”), then gradually separating into various combinations as growth (“Change is the nursery of music, joy, life and eternity”) leads to disturbance, wound, and a central movement of chaos (“A breach opens. In becomes out”). The debris begins to clear in a moment of fragmentary beauty for voices alone (“How we all swiftly, swiftly unwrap our lives”). A “lost arpeggio” and “singing mouths” announce the biological processes of recovery, summoning relicts of musics past. An unlikely lullaby (“Phosphatidylinostol is…like a music that plays under everything”) leads to the final movement of recombination which embraces the “new normal” with a dancing celebration of life (“Eros comes nowhere near this bliss”).
We all carry scars, for in life we have all been wounded in some way. Scar Tissue evokes that process through words and music, celebrating the body and its capacity to heal.
Scar Tissue was commissioned by the Gryphon Trio in partnership with Chamber Factory for Nordic Voices and the Gryphon Trio. It was made possible with support from Joyce Miller in celebration of the Gryphon Trio’s 25th anniversary, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Sounds of Science Commissioning Club.
Ryan’s music is urgent, emotional, slashing, clashing and challenging. Redhill’s libretto is emotional, evocative and also tied to the science of scars and healing.… [T]he performers all rose to the challenge to create an intense and satisfying performance.… In the penultimate section of the piece Ryan sets the word phosphatidylinositol, a key ingredient in forming a scar, in a lullaby that features the three women members of Nordic Voices singing in canon. It was a particularly affecting musical moment. (Peter Robb, Artsfile Ottawa)
PDF score excerpts
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