Elegy: Fragments of Two Worlds
Fragments of Two Worlds
Elegy is a piece for solo Clarinet in A based upon Swiss-born psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief first introduced in her book On Death and Dying. Although Kübler-Ross’s model originally pertained to specifically to those of whom have lost a loved one, her ideas have been stretched and incorporated into other areas of lose life including a job, a great opportunity, or even the lose of a beloved car. Elegy attempts to depict the five stages of grief through motives in the piece. In the original order established by Ross, a person first experiences denial followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. Later psychiatrists evolved this model, realizing that human emotions won’t occur one single stage at a time or in a specific order, but may be random and reexperience previous stages. Taking this into mind, Elegy uses the latter approach to evoke a more humanistic response.
A single motive is developed and transformed throughout the work, which I established as the human element. Denial is the first stage introduced by use of descending semi-tones, also known as the “Mannheim Sigh,” which I thought worked well for this emotion. The main motive can be found in its prime form in measure 5. This motive changes by augmenting or diminishing the intervals, but keeping the contour and the starting pitch the same. The second stage presented in the piece is depression, set off by a slightly more melodic section that makes use of tritone. Following depression is bargaining represented by a 12-tone row that uses the major 7th interval, the inversion of the half-step used for denial. Next is anger, which can also be found throughout the piece, which advances to the flourishing lines marked with the feathered beams, which also plays off of the human motive from measure 5. Acceptance is represented by a calmer and very melodic section to represent the inner peace that has finally been established.
The subtitle for Elegy arose from a discussion with my undergraduate composition professor. After explaining my idea for the piece and having a difficult time coming up with a title, he told me the story of his father-in-law’s death. He explained how the family was set around his father-in-law’s hospital bed with watchful and loving eyes knowing what was soon to occur as his organs began to shut down. Before he passed, my professor told me how his father-in-law began to speak to relatives and friends who had already died. It was a phenomena that a nurse later explained was actually quite common. I found this idea hauntingly beautiful – a moment never experienced in life, a representation of hope of what will happen after this life as experienced by someone who is about to leave this world. A moment where the soul appeared to be in two completely separate realms simultaneously, gapped by this inevitable act that defines mortality. Fragments of Two Worlds is meant to describe this moment.
The recording is performed by Mike Harris at Bradley University.
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