| the last place on earth
Instrumentation: Alto Saxphone (solo), Percussion (solo), and String Quartet
Ensemble: Performance 20/20 Ensemble, Matthew Kennedy - conductor
Year Composed: 2015
The Last Place on Earth takes its’ title from the book of same name chronicling the expeditions of Roald Amundsen (Norway) and Robert Scott (England) in their quest to be the first-known humans to explore and chart Antarctica, specifically the South Pole from 1910-1912. These two explorers could not have known how quickly their world would become interconnected over the century following their expedition. Globalization through ease of travel and communication, with the invention of the airplane and radio, would bring such disparate worlds as the one they so relentlessly pursued and the ones from which they came so claustrophobically close together. This piece explores the notion of such a far journey than can move both at a glacial pace and a blink of an eye; a miniature concerto being the medium to explore such a journey.
I. Scherzo on a Twice-Borrowed Ballade
This movement features two competing voices vying for attention amidst a still, nearly inert, stream of strings. This work is based on a Norwegian folk tune, notably used in a theme and variations by Edvard Grieg (Ballade in the form of variations on a Norwegian melody, op. 24). The ballade is initial heard in an augmented rhythmic state, eight times its original length, slowing becoming less and less augmented; eight times, four times, three times, and finally two. This interplay further conveys the close proximity of the rest of the world as time moves forward.
II. Sea Conversations
This brief movement is a fantasia based on two melodic fragments first presented in the vibraphone. As the title eludes, conversations amongst each individual musician brings great contrast to the two solo voices of the opening movement.
III. Land Fractures/Beginnings
The finale takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the adventuresome spirit, seeking to elicit a sardonic look at the original “Scherzo.”
The Last Place on Earth was comissioned by Performance 20/20 Ensemble for their 2015 Prism Concert Series.