In 2002 I made my first visit to the city of Forli in northern Italy. It was a moving occasion for me as it was the place where my mother was born and where, in 1944, she met my father who was at that time a soldier in the New Zealand Army.
The starting point for Arrivederci was the experience of standing in Piazza Saffi, the central square of Forli, and hearing bells from churches around the city clearly audible across great distances. This gave me a strong sense of experiencing the sounds as something resonant of the place and its history ... that these sounds were 'voices' from the past - something permanent, yet alive - evoking a sense of being touched by something that others had experienced with the same immediacy over many years and through some dark, violent times. The core sound used in the work is a recording of one of the bells of Forli's Duomo, the Cathedral of Santa Croce which dates from the 15th century. As it happens, the Duomo's original bells were destroyed by the Germans as they retreated from Forli in 1944 - a fact which, for me, shifts the significance of their particular sounds from an image of constancy and timelessness to one of regeneration and hope. Arrivederci's harmonic colours are derived from the bell's spectrum, embellished and embroidered with instrumental sonorities.
The following poem by e.e. cummings is used in the work as it evoked for me the sense of eternity and serenity evoked by contemplation of time and memory. It is intoned by the flutist, directly across the mouthpiece of the instrument: n OthI n g can s urPas s the m y SteR y of s tilLnes s [nothing can surpass the mystery of stillness]
Arrivederci was composed with the support of a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the electroacoustic sounds were realised in the studios of the Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre, De Montfort University. It was premiered by STROMA on 20 July 2006 in the Ilott Concert Chamber, Wellington Town Hall, New Zealand.
Commissioned by Stroma
e e cummings
02 Sep 2010: Sonic Art 2010
Performed by Stroma conducted by Hamish McKeich; Ilott Concert Chamber, Wellington