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Gothic Sea (2012)

For Piano Trio

10 minutes

Commissioned and premiered by Trio 180 at The University of the Pacific. Performances in Stockton, CA and at the Old First Concert Series. April 2012

Read a newspaper article leading up to the Stockton premiere!

Trio 180

Ann Miller, Violin

Nina Flyer, Cello

Sonia Leong, Piano


Program notes:


This trio was inspired by a passage from Proust's In Search of Lost Time. The Gothic cathedral emerging from the sea seems to be a fascinating image in the French imagination. Not only is the language in the passage beautiful, and evocative, but it immediately made me think of Debussy's Le Cathedrale Engloutie. The piece begins turbulently as though we have been dropped in the middle of the sea. Things calm down and we begin to hear, almost one note at a time, a melodic strand that will eventually reveal itself to be a quote from the Debussy prelude, mentioned above. However, the arrival at this melody is a moment of crushing, yet ominous intensity; worlds away from the grandeur of Debussy's original melody.

Here's the Proust passage that inspired this work:

"One of my dreams was the synthesis of what my imagination had often tried to envisage, during my waking hours, of a particular landscape by the sea and its medieval past. In my sleep I saw a Gothic citadel rising from the sea whose waves were frozen still, as in a stained-glass window. An inlet of the sea divided the town in two; the green water came right to my feet; on the opposite shore it lapped around an Oriental church, and around houses that already existed in the fourteenth century, so that to move across them would have been to go backwards through the centuries. This dream in which nature had taken lessons from art, in which the sea had become Gothic, this dream in which I longed to reach, and believed I was reaching, the impossible, was one I felt I had often dreamed before. But since it is the nature of what we imagine in sleep to multiply itself in the past and to appear familiar even when it is new, I supposed I was mistaken. What I did indeed notice, though, was that I frequently had this dream."

-The Guermantes Way"
Marcel Proust (page 139, Viking edition)

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