ORCHESTRA - Thracian Echoes (2002) Program Notes


In August 2002, I traveled to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, to study the Thracian folk style with clarinetist Nikola Iliev. Thracia is a region in Bulgaria which stretches over the Rodopi mountains and extends into Modern Greece. I spent several hours each day transcribing and memorizing the songs, Nikolas nephews Emil and Misha assisting by translating from Bulgarian to French or English. After leaving Plovdiv, I spent several days in Sofia, where I visited Gyorgy Petkov, arranger and composer for the Angelite Womens Choir. I spent several days looking over his arrangements and discussing counterpoint and harmonic progression in Bulgarian vocal music.

Several months later, in Rome, I began to sketch "Thracian Echoes," which I hoped would somehow fuse the mournful with the manic aspects of the Bulgarian spirit, melding the tight, soulful harmonies of the choral songs with the infectious rhythmic energy of the instrumental music. The melodies appeared to contain echoes within the phrases themselves, as though a certain nostalgia was present even in their first iterations; this hypnotic quality served as a starting point for the piece. Throughout the work, the songs return in various manifestations: harmonic, contrapuntal, melodic, rhythmic, coloristic. I composed my own slower "choir" songs and rewrote phrases from several faster, instrumental songs -- Paydushko Xhoro (5/8), Mizhka Richenitza (7/8), Daychovo Xhoro (9/8), and Krivo Pazardzhishko Xhoro (11/16) -- placing them in different modes. The piece springs from the opening gesture, a glissed, ascending whole tone. Melodies are transformed into one another and reappear in various modal incarnations, often placed in counterpoint or rhythmic canon in two, three, four, and five voices.

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