Voicespace III, "Eclipse"
Eclipse (1979)
Quadraphonic computer generated sound, Electroacoustically processed voices, Video images by Ed Emshwiller
Text fragments by Issa, Melville, Stevens, Borges, Joyce, García Márquez
Voices: Carol Plantamura, Philip Larson

Première multimedia version
(with video, slides, film by Ed Emshwiller)
25 minutes
31 January 1980
First Intermedia Art Festival, Guggenheim Museum, New York
Commissioned by The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Première electroacoustic version
16:48 minutes
18 February 1982
Symphony Space, New York
(Concert in honor of Ross Lee Finney)
Commissioned by The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum


Roger Reynold's Voicespace III, "Eclipse"
Part of the Voicespace series, electroacoustical pieces based on literary texts, Eclipse was commissioned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, where it had its first performance in Jabnuary of 1980, complete with video, slides, and film. (The "Sun Stone" image above was designed by Ed Emshwiller, and was part of the installation.)
Text

Part I

Part I has no text. The rest of the text is taken from the following authors:

(JLB)  Jorge Luis Borges
(GGM)  Gabriel García Márquez
(Issa)  Issa
(JJ)  James Joyce (Highlighted in red.)
(HM)  Herman Melville
(WS)  Wallace Stevens

Part II

...the secret duty
to define the moon...(JLB)

The obscure moon lighting an obscure world of things that would never be quite expressed....(WS)

...the moon is a character created for the complex inditing of the rare thing we all are, multiple and unique...(JLB)

...the Arctic moonlight seemed illusive, faint, more mist than moon... (WS)

...in the sun or the deceptive moonlight...(JLB)

In the doubtful moon are all dreams, the unattainable, lost time, all possibles or impossibles...(JLB)

...sinking into the indulgences that in the moonlight have their habitude...(WS)

The moonlight crumbled to degenerate forms. (WS)

The moon is a quiet moon,
Nevertheless -- (Issa)

Part III

Trace the gold sun about the whitened sky
without evasion by a single metaphor. (WS)

He conceived his voyaging to be an up and down between two elements, a fluctuating between sun and moon, a sally into gold and crimson forms. (WS)

her antiquity... (JJ)

her luminary reflection... (JJ)

her constancy under all her phases,
rising and setting by her appointed times,
waxing and waning... (JJ)

her power to enamour, to mortify,
to invest with beauty,
to render insane... (JJ)

the tranquil inscrutability of her visage... (JJ)

her omens of tempest and of calm... (JJ)

the admonition of her crater,
her arid seas,
her silence... (JJ)

on the night the night of the quiet moon
on the night of the quiet moon he would be awakened
awakened by the fleeting train music he would be
he would be awakened by the fleeting train music of
Bruckner thunder dawns on the night of the quiet
of the quiet moon he would be awakened by the fleeting
the fleeting fleeting by the fleeting train music of
Bruckner thunder dawns that brought on ruinous flood
floods ruinous floods and left the quiet moon of the
night on the night of the quiet moon he would be
awakened by the fleeting train music of Bruckner thunder
dawns that brought on ruinous floods and left a desolation
a desolation of tattered gowns of dead brides awakened
awakened awakened by the fleeting night of the quiet
moon of the quiet night of the quiet of the quiet moon
he would be awakened on the night of the quiet moon he
would be awakened by the fleeting train music of
Bruckner thunder dawns that brought on ruinous floods
and left a desolation of tattered gowns of dead brides
on the branches of the almond trees on the branches
that brought on ruinous ruinous floods that brought on
ruinous floods and left a desolation and left floods
and left and left ruinous floods and left floods and
left and left and left floods and left a desolation
a desolation of tattered gowns of dead brides on the
branches of the almond trees of the quiet moon of the
night of the quiet night of the night of the night on
the night of the quiet moon he would be awakened by
the fleeting train music of Bruckner thunder dawns
that brought on ruinous floods and left a desolation
of tattered gowns of dead brides on the branches of
the almond trees at the former Dutch lunatic asylum... (GGM)*

Part IV

...a total eclipse of the sun... (WS)  
  It was such a true night
in the middle of the day
that the stars lit up,
flowers closed, hens went
to roost, and animals sought
shelter with their best
premonitory instincts... (GGM)

Why did the absence of
light disturb him less
than the presence of noise? (JJ)

...and as the ephemeral
night broke up, the light
of truth grew brighter... (GGM)

...like the true light of
the truest sun... (WS)

After the final no there
comes a yes. (WS)

No was the night.
Yes is the present sun. (WS)
 
...condemned us to live
facing this limitless
plain of harsh lunar dust
where the bottomless
sunsets pain us in our souls... (GGM)
...On land, meridional,
a bispherical moon,
revealed in imperfect
varying phases of lumination
through the posterior
interstice of the imperfectly
occluded skirt of a carnose
negligent perambulating
female... (JJ)
Because of the surety of
the sense of touch in his firm
full masculine feminine passive
active hand. (JJ)
The sorrows of sun, too,
gone...the moon and moon,
the yellow moon of words
about the nightingale in
measureless measures. (WS)
...whose sinking is the
intelligence of our sleep... (WS)
...lost forever in the
enigma of the eclipse... (GGM)

...the sun hides not...
the millions of miles of deserts and of griefs beneath the moon... (HM)

* This passage has been extended from the original by a serial cycling.

Notes from Roger Reynolds

Eclipse (1979)
For video, computer generated sound, and electronically spatialized voices
Roger Reynolds (b. 1934), music
Ed Emshwiller (b. 1925-1990), video

Ed Emshwiller and I began our collaboration by sharing recent materials. His had grown from a video synthesis work based on a sun/moon image, on male and female faces and forms. Mine included incessantly but slowly shifting synthesized sound and modified, spatialized human voices, both relying on computers.
The materials shared a continuously evolving and yet suspended quality not unrelated to the archetypal sources from which they had arisen. We agreed to explore images of sun and moon with their complementary and planetary associations. I sought an appropriate text, planning to project it with a male and female voice, speaking, singing, lines, phrases that would wander orbitally around an illusory auditory space.
No single textural passage I could discover seemed of the proper scope and scale, and the notion dawned that a montage of perspectives drawn from various authors might provide a sufficiently diverse commentary for such an expansive subject. Selecting, then, from James Joyce, Wallace Stevens, Issa, Jorge Luis Borges, Herman Melville, and Gabriel García Márquez, I assembled a modular text.
The first section of the resulting work was made up entirely of computer synthesized sounds. The second, in which four layers of expansively spoken text are overlaid, is still relatively inactive spatially, though it is contrapuntally intricate. In the third part, the female voice travels continuously, breathlessly cycling through obsessive recollections of "the night of the quiet moon," while the male speaker intones phrases linking the feminine and the lunar. In the final part, synthesized and computer processed sounds are interwoven with multiple vocal layers (each simultaneous text fragment traversing an independent orbit about the auditory space). I hoped, through an unusual density of text presentation, to trigger both foreseeable and unexpected analogies, to bind by an insistent layering together and mutual eclipsing: lyrical but abstract sound, wordless song, intonation, and speech; to invite a sort of transcendence.
Notes from the Lovely Music CD Web site:

Voices, language and space interested Roger Reynolds since The Emperor of Ice Cream was written for the ONCE Festivals in Ann Arbor in the 1960s. In the 1970s, at the Center for Music Experiment in La Jolla, he heard the daily rehearsals of the Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble and, in the evenings, read his daughter to sleep, trying to capture an individual and consistent vocal behavior for each character in the story. A demanding critic, she stimulated Reynolds' reflections on vocal identity. Electronics offered rather precise control over auditory space (a particular sound's size, location, distance, the character of the host space in which it was heard). Choosing spare but evocative texts (Borges, Melville, Stevens, Coleridge) Reynolds conjures up unfamiliar yet appropriate vocal behaviors with which to present them. The five works in the series thus far share a concern with the potential of auditory imaging: this is a subject still only tentatively broached. They attempt to create a personal theater through the mind's ear. Yet they are distinct.

CD Information

The electroacoustical version of Eclipse is available through Lovely Music CDs. There is also a version available on DVD through Mode records. Called Watershed, it contains Reynolds' Red Act Arias as well as the multimedia version of Eclipse, complete with the Emshwiller images. I will provide more details on Watershed in the near future.

Voicespace
Roger Reynolds (Composer) / Audio CD 1801 / Released 1994

Watershed 4/Eclipse/Red Act Arias ~ DVD
R. Reynolds

--A. Ruch
&
Bill Winter
15 December 2000
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