Duration: ca. 32'
1 Bb Cl. dbl. Bs.Cl./1 Hrn./1 Perc./1 Vln./1 Vla./1 Vc./1 Cb.
Commissioned by the Network for New Music
A Forest of Attics was written not long after I completed The Vanishing Pavilions. The latter work, for solo piano, occupied me for almost four years. It is a piece where approximately half of its fifty movements are in a kind of conversation with the poetry of Christopher Middleton (1926-2015), though the words remain silent in performance. Middleton’s poetry has had a strong impact on me, and does still today. In his words I found a kind of expressive concision and power that remains for me a model. In the case of The Vanishing Pavilions, the words served more as companions during the journey of writing the work. I did not try to render his poetical texts into sound. The text fragments that resonated with me I placed in the score alongside the music.
Like Middleton’s words did, the writings of Bruno Schulz (1892-1942) have had a profound impact on my thinking. They have continued to stay with me since I first encountered them over two decades ago. In the case of A Forest of Attics however, the texts performed a different role than those in The Vanishing Pavilions. Like that work, I placed fragments of text before movements of music. Unlike The Vanishing Pavilions, I was drawn directly into the specific, often shocking images Schulz presents, and found myself attempting to construct a kind of musical framework around them. It is difficult to forget an image such as that of “beech trees around the church” which “stood with their arms upraised and screamed and screamed.” Like Middleton and other specific writers and poets, there seems to be something deeply musical within Schulz’s expressive impulses.
— Michael Hersch
All text fragments drawn from Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles
Translation by Celina Wieniewska
Published by Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics, New York, 1977
Originally published in Poland with the title Cinnamon Shops, 1934