The composer/filmmaker Tomas Hendriks made a very nice image for Hardscore’s up-coming audition. Smoke and sun: an apt metaphor for our worries and hopes and humanity’s never ending quest for happiness in an often threatening world .
Tomas captured very well the general mood of ‘Carbon Fixation’ and in a way it shows at the same time very well Yann’s current situation…
I finished yesterday the 21st Sonata, commissioned by the Maltese pianist Gabi Sultana, currently living in Ghent.
Malta was very much on my mind while composing this piece. Gabi asked me an exciting piece. And smelling of the sea. With sharp edged shadows defined by the Southern sun.
While working it quickly became apparent that Malta’s past, imagined or not, featured many links to Yann’s recovery.
There’s a persistent myth that the story of Atlantis is linked to Malta.
In the incredible megalithic underground temple of Hal Saflieni scientists discovered in 1908 strange elongated skulls of human beings, which maybe have belonged to a special caste of priests all displaying serpent like appearances (stretched eyes and skin.) Popular imagination immediately linked these to the lost civilization of Atlantis. More about this later.
But there remains the fact that apparently Malta did indeed sink into the sea for hundreds of years and then rose again from the waves. These cataclysmic events are always caused by vulcanic activity. Fire and water. I don’t think I have to explain more.
While doing research for the piece, I stumbled upon a picture of a lone watchtower on a bluff, surrounded by crumbling rocks in the scorching heat. Imagine the loneliness of the onetime guard in it. Imagine the solitude of Yann in his hospital bed.
I linked this image with the Ghana singing tradition of Malta: a rising high pitched line accompanied by a simplified kind of strumming (Gabi asked me to avoid all handspans larger than an octave) which in itself is a transformation of the material of the beginning of the piece, suggesting the slow churning and languid sound of the Mediterranean surf.
The second part is inspired by the strange rocky cart ruts of the Misrah Ghar il-Kbir site. A complex network of tracks gouged in the rock. They reminded me of the lines or graphs on the two monitors in Yann’s room. Sudden bursts of anomalous activity on the screen looked to me like derailments. The resulting musical elaboration of this idea -de-synchronized behavior between the two hands – will hopefully fulfill Gabi’s longing for an exciting piece.
I already wrote here above about the strange dolichodecepahlous skulls, now lost it seems. In the Hal Safliene temple about 7000 skeletons were found and a fair part of the skulls showed traces of intentional deformation through bondage. The bondage of Yann’s skullcap came to mind when I read this.
The third part starts again with the sea music, but this time it’s become more slithery, call it snakelike. Medicine is often symbolized by the Staff of Asclepius, a serpent-entwined rod.
Another popular image is the serpent biting its own tale. Malta is a small island. A bit like a coiled serpent baking on a rock in the middle of the sea. Round and round it goes. The music of the last part does this too, leading as well to the beginning of the sonata as to the beginning of the third part itself.
The most common etymology is that the word Malta derives from the Greek word μέλι, meli, “Honey”. Extremely powerful food. High caloric food is very important for patients with burn wounds. The soft humming of bees are definitely heard in this part.
Gabi is a creature of the sun, with a sun-drenched skin ánd heart.
May some of the heat of her playing induce in the heart of the audience the idea of ‘hope’ she always emanates while performing.
At the same time I dedicate with all my heart, this sonata to Prof. Dr. Stan Monstrey, head of the Burns Unit Ghent and the incredible team overthere.