E PIU DI CENTO SPIRTI ("And More Than a Hundred Spirits")
The Second of Two Parts of the Ship of Souls Cycle
Quartet (After Dante)
The Ship of Souls
L’uccel divino, the harp piece that is the first part of this two-part cycle, means literally “the divine bird;” this of course is an epithet for an angel, and the angel in question is the Captain of the Ship of Souls that goes back and forth between Earth and Dante’s Purgatory. This piece is a study of the character of that Captain, imagined in both his interior life and at his duties.
The title of the present work, the second of the two companion pieces in the Ship of Souls cycle, is E piu di cento spirti, which means “And More Than a Hundred Spirits,” and refers to the passengers on the Heavenly Ship. It should be fairly easy to meditate on the correspondence between the assembly of a large crowd on a flying ship and the manifold musical situations one hears in the piece. It is quite recognizable as a toccata, an improvisational form, one which by the mid-Nineteenth Century became identified with pieces that have repeated-note ideas. To support the ideas I was having for the piece, I had to create an ensemble that can act as a “super-harp” without the harp’s physical, chromatic, registral, or endurance problems (or its frequent problems with repeated notes). There are no sections or episodes in the piece whatsoever, it depends entirely on invention and contextual reckoning, though not dead reckoning: there are a number of ideas common to other pieces in the music festival, especially its companion L’UCCEL DIVINO, and both pieces end with the same bravura flourish. It is twelve minutes long, and was completed in 1989.
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