TRACING THESEUS (2016)

10 minutes

Violin and 13-String Koto

 

For Pro Musica Nipponia

 

 

PROGRAM NOTE

The mythical king of Athens, Theseus figures prominently as the heroic icon in a saga of perilous adventures and tragedies that bequeath the intrigue of conflict between mortals and immortals. The title is meant to refer dramatically as a “tracing” or recounting of the epic hero’s exploits and musically to Plutarch’s argument of the Ship of Theseus Paradox:

 

“The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from Crete had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their places, in so much that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.

— Plutarch

 

The paradox manifests in a musical procedure by way of a quintuple metric pattern. This pattern becomes a framework, a tracing for which different musical material occupies and evolves. While the meter does evolve beyound the metric pattern,  the basic pattern is omnipresent in some form, just as the form of Theseus’ ship remains intact while its material is in flux through time. 

 

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