A Tour of Italy depicts a portion of my experiences during a choir tour in Italy.
The piece begins in Venice (mm. 1-58), just as our trip had. With the light breeze and the rocking of gondolas and water boats, the piece begins with a serene, barcarolle-like presentation of the chant melody in the English Horn with hints of the Roman theme. Recalling the heavy rain from the trip and also foreshadowing Venice's eventual sinking, the music erupts into a violent storm—rain battering tourists' 5-euro ponchos and wind twisting umbrellas inside out.
The storm fades away and chant takes over (mm. 59-75) as we enter San Marco's. Having sung in some of the most famous cathedrals in Italy, this reverberant chant is presented to echo all of the beautiful and historic churches.
With a beautiful quasi-folk,/quasi-Baroque minor rendition of the chant melody in the English Horn and Oboe, we are taken to the streets of Florence (mm. 76-119). Filled with Renaissance art, the Medici legacy, leather, and amazing food, the music flows with counterpoint. Yet, the sporadic disturbances of Roman artifacts mixed with gypsies, pickpockets, and mosquitos splash across the brilliant view of the Renaissance hub from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Again, we jump ahead into the serene organ music of the Vatican (mm. 120-132). Referencing the mass we sang at, in which the organist was playing in Bb-minor to complement the Weelkes piece we were about to sing, only to find out we would be singing it in A-minor. The organist's admirable turn from slight panic to a confident and subtle transition down a semitone, without disturbing a prayer, left its impression.
Following a brief string interlude, we walk through noble Rome (mm. 133-161). Filled with beautiful artifacts and historical relics, the majesty of the Roman Empire’s remnants are breathtaking. Yet, the more I walked through Rome, the more I could see the violence, the persecution, and the death that had happened. Furthermore, the music reflects the Roman motive degrading along with Rome’s legacy with time, departing further from comfortable tonality. Finally, with fading memories, we are left in silence.
Built of two main motives, a made-up chant melody representing Italy's spiritual nature, nature itself, and even the day-to-day things, and a four-note motive (most commonly notes: A-A-C-B) representing the Roman Empire. The language of the piece is built around a tonal foundation, using the preconceptions of tonality as a base—aligning and diverging from it—to create and evoke new feelings and meanings. For example, atonal clusters at D depart from the pseudo-tonality, representing a violent storm and turbulent waters, while throughout the piece, there are dissonant disruptions, alluding to the mix of Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Modern architecture, streets, and attractions.
A TOUR OF ITALY
Composed Summer 2019
Instrumentation: 2*2*2*2* 4231 T+2 Hp Pno/Cel. Strings