Between Two Points

See program notes below. Music by Seth Stewart. Animation by motiphe (www.motiphe.org).

Premiered by Matthieu Feuga on 18 March 2013 in the Grand Amphithéâtre, Université de Lyon 2 (Lyon, France).

We have all heard the expression, “Stuck between a rock and a hard place.” I believe that emerging artists in the twenty-first century face the challenge of living between a rock and a “soft place”. In our modern environment, where economic pressure and budget-cuts are sending many arts organizations into survival mode, more than a few artists are metaphorically caught between the malleable palette needed to nurture their creativity, and the hard walls of financial bottom-lines, from which their voice all too often abruptly echoes back.

Between Two Points is the portrait of an artist whose solitary voice emotes a soulful strain in the midst of a harsh and desolate landscape. Embodied by the solo violin, it sings out in stark dissimilarity to the chaotic sounds of crushing stone and grinding metal that surround it. Given utterance through the earthy timbre of the bowed strings—from the gritty vibrations on the low G string, to the soft-spoken mid-register and the poignant cries of the upper range—it offers the only fluidly organic element in an otherwise brute and unnatural plane.

Against this severe backdrop unfolds an extraordinary scene in which giant, stone figures toil against the intense weight of a looming monolith. The imagery aptly depicts a burdened society: the dark, overcast sky portrays uncertainty; the chains suggest binding limitations; the figures themselves move lethargically in the laborious routine. In such daunting conditions, the prospects for cultivating one’s artistic voice appear bleak.

Paradoxically, the result is transcendence. Far from being overwhelmed by the enveloping din, the voice reacts to, imitates, and ultimately integrates the environment into its expressive narrative. Though its contrasting timbre initially evokes a sense of disembodiment and isolation, there emerges interplay. Gestures are passed from the environment to the artist, and vice versa. Moments of interactive sound construction evolve into inspired collaboration. The resulting symbiosis proves that the artist can surpass present adversities by assimilating and articulating them in a personal voice, thereby thriving in that unexpectedly fertile space between the hardness of economic necessity and the inner suppleness of creativity.

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