is a vocal work for five performers who are required to read from a deck of
prepared cards, and instrumental accompaniment that consist of flute or
recorder, bassoon, piano and two percussion players. Instrumental parts are loosely scored according to cues from
the vocal performers.
composition uses text excerpts taken from a short piece of prose written by Lord
Byron. In this work, Byron
describes in frightening and exquisite detail the downfall of humanity through a
symbolic extinguishing of the sun. This
text was chosen because of the horrific reality that must be faced by everyone
in contemporary life; the everpresence of the the threat of nuclear war and the
greenhouse effect. The purpose of
Darkness is to represent the frightening subject of Byron's poem in a musical
form, but where the text itself is used as the musical material.
Only in this way can the true horror within the text surface.
diagram below demonstrates approximate positions for readers and
instrumentalists in a performance. A
thin gauze-like screen is set up centre stage, and this should allow the
sillhouettes of the readers who sit behind the screen to be visible.
The Darkness cards are set on a small table, around which five seats are
positioned for use by the readers. There
are no other special requirements for the appearance of the stage.
The performers should be dressed in black.
begins in semi-darkness. Instrumentalists
are already positioned on stage. The
readers walk to their positions in a slow procession, holding lighted candles,
and the light gradually rises to a standard level. The performers sit on the
seats behind the screen and they place the candles on the table.
The flickering light of the candles should help to cast the shadows of
the performers on the screen. To
begin Darkness, the readers pick one of the top cards.
A designated reader then cues the instruments to being the composition.
After the readers have finished a card, they discard it and pick
another.During the performance (which takes around 12-15 minutes), the lighting
gradually falls until al that remains is the flickerng of the candle light.
At the climactic scream, the candles are simultaneously extinguished,
leaving the last speech recited in total darkness.
text forms the musical substance for this composition, although only at certan
times can sections of the text be understood in the form of solo speeches that
are shouted above the vocalizations of the other performers.
The five readers whisper, moan, shout and scream the text simultaneously,
which forms the strucutre around which the music develops.
The instrumentalists play a secondary role in this musical expression
through reactng to changes in the text.
unspecified assignation of the cards introduces a random element into the
composition. However, any
particular card can be assigned to a particular reader if it is felt that that
performer can read it the most convncngly.
This is especially true for the solo speeches that must be clearly heard
by the instrumentalists. The degree to which the cards are randomly assigned is
essentially up to the performers. All
readers are silent directly after the silent scream, and as the last speech is
performed in darkness, it is one that certainly must be assigned (and learnt by
heart) before the performance begins.
the instrumental parts
instrumental parts are loosely scored, and are in fact largely improvisatory.
The parts are divided into four sections, and act as loose divisions
within the composition that are divided by vocal cues.
These cues are from the readers in all the instrumental parts, except the
piano part which starts rigt at the beginning of the comostion (cued by one of
the readers). The highlighted words
on the instrumental parts indicate the text the player must listen for, and show
when in that reading the instrument begins playing, indivated by an arrow (see
diagram below). Instructions on how
the music should be played, how long it is played for, dynamics, speed and other
important factors are described beneath the music. The instrumentalists stops plying what he was doing
previously and moves futher into the score when he hears the next cue.
All instruments stop playing as soon as they hear the final scream.
first major performance of Darkness took place on the 16th of Aril 1989 to end
the Evos Youth Ensemble's Night Shades concert. The performers were as follows:
Laskewicz, Julia Ife, Scott Aaronson, Eleanor Wycherley, Lindsay Vickery.
Bolleter - Piano
Hammond - Percussion 1
Neylon - Percussion 2
Collins - Bassoon
Burleigh - Recorder
Zachar Laskewicz 1989
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