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Abbreviations (PDF)

World Premiere
Casa Italiana - Columbia University, New York, NY
Eric Moe and Rob Frankenberry; pianos /
Composer's Notes

MONSTERS is in two parts. Part I, Matrimony, is approximately 20 minutes long and Part II, Scylla and Charybdis about 30. Each is a self-contained unit.

Part I: Matrimony
Dedicated to Eric Moe

What then is the appeal of matrimony to a militant, long-entrenched gay man, such as myself? I think the hook is forbiddeness. Centuries of religious and civil prohibition have made matrimonial access an impossible dream. The sex-drenched fingers of gay men and women should never touch the pristine glory that is matrimony – or so say the priests in the temple.

Then Gay Liberation arrives and the walls come tumbling down leaving the behemoth, or if you prefer, the monster, matrimony – vulnerable. And so, with my composers pen I scratch the freshly-exhumed, still breathing corpus, wondering if its unshackled essence could heal me or at least bring a modicum of happiness.

Expressive and flowing, the Prelude which begins the piece has little to do with the rest of the work. There are however, veiled references to Wagner’s Bridal Chorus and then a later fortissimo drubbing of the same tune. Interlude is all scales – an introduction to the Double Fugue. This is an elaborate, developed section which pits the Wagner Bridal Chorus against – on top of – around – the Mendelssohn Wedding March. In Quodlibet each theme is combined in increasingly bizarre and surprising ways. A Cadenza preceding the finale is tranquil, while still using highly-filigreed material. A pianissimo quote from Robert Schumann opens the Finale. From this point to the end the music grows steadily more frantic, suggesting on the one hand a wildly successful wedding night or on the other, the onset of marital disenchantment.

Part II: Scylla and Charybdis
Dedicated to Rob Frankenberry

Scylla and Charybdis, in Greek mythology, were two immortal and irresistible monsters who beset the narrow waters traversed by the hero Odysseus in his wanderings (described in Homer’s Odyssey, Book XII). They were later localized in the Strait of Messina.

When I came across this quote – I don’t remember where – I was inspired to make a melodrama out of this story – writing my own version of Homer’s tale. A melodrama is usually poetry spoken against a musical background. Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Richard Strauss and Poulenc (“Babar”) have all written them. However, I wanted a new twist: the pianist would play the music and speak the words simultaneously. The job of two persons would be rolled into one!

A harsh Fugue attends the dramatic birth of Scylla. Charybdis, being a whirlpool arrives more subtly later in the story. There are two battles pitting Odysseus and his men against the two monsters.

Lots happens. There is a visit by the Greeks to the “Spanish Quarter” where a festival is in full swing – a “Battle-Bagatelle,” a Canonico Grande and a secret visit by Scylla to the notorious flesh-pots of Messina. The two sides remain evenly matched, at least until Scylla suddenly falters. Falling forward she leaves the battlefield – and victory – behind.

All at once a song bursts forth from the pianist’s throat. It is a song of farewell to Scylla and to Charybdis, sung as they both disappear from sight and are assumed into the firmament above.

--David Del Tredici

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