Castles in the Sky
[Click image to view sample PDF score]
(two violas and toy piano), 2 min., 2004.
Premiered by the International Contemporary Ensemble (I.C.E.): Phyllis Chen, toy piano, Maiya Papach and Wendy Richman, violas, Chicago, IL.
Sharon Chung and Rachel Goff, violas; David Smooke, toy piano, 2004
This piece was written for the I.C.E. Toy Piano Zoo concert for children in an old mostly Spanish-speaking Chicago neighborhood. I wanted to write a piece that reflected the possibilities of childhood, the dreams and aspirations of the young. For children, even the person next door can be strange and magical. This piece attempts to capture the naive sense of wonderment of the everyday. Marked “ethereal and sparkling,” Castles in the Sky briefly captures an elusive vision.
This piece embraces many of the limitations of the toy piano: its narrow range, limited dynamics and strange tuning. I leveled the playing field a bit by having the violists go the entire piece without ever fully depressing a string; they are limited to using only natural harmonics and left-hand pizzicato techniques. This creates a sense that the entire piece is a whispered secret. In order to have greater pitch choice under this constraint, I ask one of the violas to be tuned a full step lower than usual.
Video poem by Nick Carbo with etched 16mm film and flag. Music is Castles in the Sky, performed by David Smooke, toy piano with Sharon Chung and Rachel Goff violas, Chicago, IL, February 2007.