Scylla (2003)

for: orchestra (2-2-2-2; 4-2-2-1; 3 perc.; pno; strings)
duration: 10 minutes
reading session: by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, January 28, 2017
Manitoba Arts Council Development Grant

In 1999, I composed a piano concerto entitled The Straits of Messina. The title is derived from a passage found in Homer’s The Odyssey. In this passage, Ulysses must navigate his ship through the Straits of Messina between two great dangers: Charybdis, a whirlpool that sucks down the sea (along with everything in or on it), then spews it out again; and Scylla, a six-headed monster who eats anything that crosses within reach.

While Homer’s Scylla is a fairly significant impendent to his progress, other accounts provide a back-story. According to other sources, Scylla was once a beautiful young woman who was turned into her present form by a jealous sorceress.

The orchestra piece Scylla makes use of some of the pitch material found in my earlier piece The Straits of Messina. Because of these common roots, I thought a link through the titles would be appropriate. The music also suggests some of the many struggles one might have during an encounter with this mythical sea-demon, and also alludes to her unfortunate fate.

Classical references aside, Scylla for orchestra could best be described as a tone-poem about a sea-monster with issues. It is dedicated to my children: Alexander (10) and Elena (6).

The composer would like to thank the Manitoba Arts Council for supporting the creation of this work through a Composer Commissioning Development Grant.

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