Downfall

Composer
Brian Mountford
Composer Nationality
American
Composer Date of Birth
1964
Year Composed
2016
Pages
14
Minutes
9
Difficulty
4 (Auditioned chorus)
Language
German
Voicing
4 part mixed chorus
Divisi
Yes
Solos
4 whisper/wind noise parts
Instruments
Glockenspiel; Optional live electronics
Sacred or Secular
Secular
Description

Austrian poet Georg Trakl (1887 - 1914) lived a short, unhappy life which ended in a cocaine overdose brought on by the horrors of his experience as a medical officer in World War I. In common with many poets of that time, Trakl’s work often features somber visions of a world in decline. Thorns in particular are a recurring image. In the words of Richard Millington, “The powerful final image of the poem..., in which the speaker and the ‘brother’ he is addressing are cast together as ‘blind clock hands’ climbing towards midnight, is illustrative of Trakl’s tendency to portray human solidarity as a source of meaning and solace in a disintegrating world.”

To capture the feeling of the clock ticking steadily amidst the disintegration, I used a glockenspiel playing two notes in alternation through most of the piece, with whisperers placed on the sides of the audience repeating snippets of the poem and making wind sounds. In the premiere, we also used live electronics to track the pitches of four singers outfitted with wireless microphones and generate atmospheric effects.

The performance was accompanied by a series of prerecorded video segments triggered from the sound booth to maintain synchronization with the conductor and chorus. The video was created using iMovie, Apple Motion, and custom thorn tracery animations written using the Processing environment, superimposed on video recorded with permission at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY. The video also doubles as English supertitles. Video available on request for use in performance.

https://youtu.be/taa6o6QCO58

Group
C4
Performances
C4: 2016 Nov 10 & 12 (Collaborations), cond. Gelber (World Premiere)