indolentiae ars, a medium to be kept

Program Note

‘twas Germanicus’ advice of old, that we should not dwell too long upon our passions, to be desperately sad, immoderate grievers, to let them tyrannize, there ‘s indolentiae ars [an art in suppressing grief], a medium to be kept: we do not (saith Austin) forbid men to grieve, but to grieve overmuch.

— Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, Pt. 2, Sec. 3, Mem. 5: Cure of Melancholy – Remedies against Discontents

Not grief so much as duration, which can amount to the same thing: the challenge of an old, obsolete instrument, limited in some respects, impossibly flexible in others, and possessing ghosts of a specific musical rhetoric, confronted with a large space to fill, a number of strategies attempted, circled back upon, rejected, various stubbornnesses indulged, digressions pursued, durations confronted and deferred.

One of those stubbornnesses is that of Robert Grosseteste, whose treatise De luce is also about the filling of spaces physical and rhetorical, with its imagined spheres and its hysterically repetitive phraseology:

Ex his patet, quod denarius sit numerus universitatis perfectus, quia omne totum et perfectum aliquid habet in se sicut formam et unitatem, et aliquid sicut materiam et binarium, et aliquid sicut compositionem et ternarium, et aliquid sicut compositum et quaternarium. Nec contingit ultra haec quattuor quintum addere. Quapropter omne totum et perfectum est decem. His autem manifestum est, quod solae quinque proportiones repertae in his quattuor numeris unum, duo, tria, quattuor aptantur compositioni et concordiae stabilienti omne compositum. Quapropter istae solae quinque proportiones concordes sunt in musicis modulationibus, gesticulationibus et rythmicis temporibus.

Explicit tractatus de luce Lincolniensis.

This piece is tailored in every possible way to Carl Rosman: his unusual instrument and his explorations upon it (and therefore his multiphonics, his fingerings, his microtones), his transcendent virtuosity, his penetrating intellect, his tolerance of ambiguity, his immersion in musical history, his voice, his stage presence, his control of silence, even his page-turning technology. In gratitude for almost ten years of a relationship that has become one of the foundations of my musical life: nothing I’ve ever done has been dedicated so profoundly.

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