Commissioned by Casa da Musica

The world premiere took place on December 12, 2007 at Casa da Musica, Porto performed by Alexandra Moura and Remix Ensemble, conducted by Titus Engel.

  • S +
  • Soprano
  • 14 min

Programme Note

The discovery of Dylan Thomas' poetry, about ten years ago while looking for texts for a vocal piece, was a singular discovery. Through his hand, a disturbing, visceral universe was revealed to me, populated by strong words, in which cruelty and lyricism skilfully coexist in monumental, baroque constructions, of an extraordinary, almost tactile musical richness: there is something in those words - in the way they travel between the aestheticization of cruelty and the melancholic violence of matter, of flesh - that resists analysis, that refuses to be named That takes us to another language: an archaic, original language.

The writing of a work for voice and ensemble allowed me to return, ten years later, to his poetry, through A process in the weather of the heart. In this poem, built on the idea that anything contains in itself its opposite, Thomas combines an extraordinary rigour in the structure with an unusual rarefaction of material, returning in each of its five verses to a transformed version of the initial enunciation.

This transformation occurs, on the one hand, at the level of perspective: starting from an image of pure interiority (the heart), the enunciations become progressively broader, describing a spiral movement that ends with an image of pure exteriority (the world). At the same time, the initial idea of alternation (damp to dry) gives way to the realization that the two dimensions are present simultaneously (damp and dry). Thus, when near the end of the poem Thomas writes 'A process in the weather of the world turns ghost to ghost' he is asserting that the process of transforming something into its opposite is ultimately a redefinition of the balance between the two opposites, which are always present; he is thus defining a reality built on a perpetual movement between contrary states and elements, a reality that is defined primarily by its circularity, by the constant shifting of the balance between the opposites that define it: life and death, light and darkness, being and nothingness.

This idea of circularity runs through the piece at different levels: the sections into which it is divided, which correspond to the verses of the poem, alternate consecutively static moments of reflection with moments of greater density, of a more active writing.

In each of the sections, I aimed to define a tendency for different musical parameters (such as scope, register occupation, nature of gestures, degree of homophony, etc). The idea of tendency proved to be of crucial importance here, allowing me to unequivocally establish the identity of each section without exerting too rigid a control over the final result, which could make localized actions of reaction to the poetic text unfeasible or inconsistent.

Thus, what I intended was to define a formal model where I could inscribe my own objects, also built through circular processes (or mechanisms) of material proliferation. The result was the creation of a framework in which I could finally establish different kinds of inter-textual relations, building the musical text around the poetic text; seeking that both affect each other reciprocally - like Thomas's two "ghosts" - that cast their shadows on each other and on us, recognizing each other as crystallizations of a perpetual circular movement, of a process that at the same time shelters and transforms them.


Remix Ensemble · Zooming In · "Shadow Circles"