Orpheus Variations is a new composition by Alvin Lucier for solo cello and seven wind instruments. It is based on a particular sonority from the first movement of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet score, Orpheus; a sonority that has haunted Lucier for decades.
Orpheus Variations is one of eight large-scale compositions made expressly for Charles Curtis by Alvin Lucier in the last 15 years. This performance was conducted by Petr Kotik, with Charles Curtis playing solo cello alongside members of the SEM Ensemble.
“Lucier speaks first of a sonority, and only then of a chord. He discusses the chord, its notes and their disposition, but what haunts him is a “particular sonority.” A sonority is the product of physical action on physical materials: the instruments, the registers in which they are activated, the breath of the musicians, the waveforms thus produced, their merging and interfering, and finally the moment and place of these actions. An energy field, certain to vanish completely once the musicians put down their instruments. However concrete and real the actions and materials, the sonority they produce is a phantom.”