A Prayer for Restraint

Arciuli A week from tonight, Italian pianist Emanuele Arciuli (pictured) will play my piece Earth-Preserving Chant at a 7:00 concert at Columbia University’s Italian Academy, 1161 Amsterdam Ave. between 116th and 118th. The Hungarian/American program includes works all by my kind of guys: Haydn, Bartok, Liszt, John Adams (Phrygian Gates), Martin Bresnick (Ishi’s Song), and my piece, which Emanuele commissioned. The day he first wrote me, I had just been reading about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and was pretty despondent about the projected fate of the human race and its ability to relate sanely to its environment. Emanuele asked me for a piece with a Native American subtext, and a kind of musical prayer for the earth flashed into my ear – I started composing almost immediately. Earth-Preserving Chant is a metaphor for husbanding one’s resources: it all takes place over repetitions of only three drone dyads in the bass (F-C, F#-B, G-Eb), and introduces new material only a little at a time, returning over and over to the accumulating prayer-like cadential formulae with which it opens. The dynamic is fundamentally pp and should never exceed mp. I’d like to think it will make a nice companion piece with Martin’s fabulous, and similarly themed, Ishi’s Song. This is the East Coast premiere.