clarinet (also bass clarinet), percussion (also celesta), off-stage percussion (2 players), harp and string quartet
Andrew Ford: Icarus drowning (1998)
for clarinet (also bass clarinet), percussion (also celesta), off-stage percussion (2 players), harp and string quartet
Although I never intended to compose a cycle of pieces based on the myth of Icarus, I now see that I began it in 1984 with Like Icarus ascending for solo violin. In 1988 came Chamber Concerto No. 3: In constant flight for solo violin and ensemble, a reworking of that solo piece, and the following year, the music–theatre piece, Parabola. At this point, I still wasn’t thinking of the works as a cycle, but when the Australian-born, New York-based violinist Rohan Smith asked me to composed a piece for his music festival in central New South Wales the penny finally dropped.
The Kowmung Music Festival happens at the end of summer (late March) in the Bathurst region, a few hours drive west of Sydney. It is notable for arranging musical events in unlikely, though acoustically advantageous, venues such as cattle sheds. The concert featuring my new piece was to be in Abercrombie Caves, an imposing limestone cave system with a small wooden stage dating back to the gold rush of the late 1800s. The miners had used the caves as a social club; the stage was for dancing. Thinking about the subterranean concert and about Rohan Smith (who had given the American premiere of Like Icarus ascending and performed the chamber concerto a number of times), I finally began to conceive the idea of a group of pieces with the new work as the final instalment. At the end of Parabola, Icarus, his ambitious flight thwarted by the heat of the sun, has hit the water with a splash. Icarus drowning, then, begins with that splash, following the boy’s slow drift downwards. As he drowns, his life flashes before him in the form of fragments from the earlier pieces.