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Eine kleine Augenmusik - A Little Eye Music - Sacred and Profane Musings on the Homograph 'Agape' for any instruments

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By Joseph Dillon Ford

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Piano Solo, Flute, Bassoon, any instruments desired - Intermediate - Digital Download
Composed by Joseph Dillon Ford. 21st Century, Contemporary Classical, Impressionistic, Post-Romantic. Score. 9 pages. Published by David Warin Solomons (S0.436743).

Item Number: S0.436743

A series of eight humorous, ironic, and provocative musical idiograms:

"Venus's-flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)"
"Scenes from the Inquisition"
"Table Music for a Glutton"
"Love Feast"


The eight pieces comprising A Little Eye Music: Sacred and Profane Musings on the Homograph 'Agape,' may at first glance present an enigma. At second glance, they may not even pass for music at all: There aren't very many notes on the page, and to make matters worse, the same ones keep reappearing from one movement to the next.

This is understandably enough to drive away most performers, who generally require copious quantities of notes and at least a modicum of variety to keep their audiences entertained. I'm sorry to disappoint them, but A Little Eye Music is no mere entertainment. In fact, it's nothing less than a distillation of theological knowledge I've acquired through years of study, reflection, and practical experience. As the title suggests, this knowledge is communicated through the eye in particular; the ear stands by only to confirm the evidence of things seen.

Thus, A Little Eye Music continues the tradition of Augenmusik so happily practiced in former times when composers had rather more to think about than pursuing academic pedigrees and besting their opponents in competitions for corporate grants and dwindling university posts. In those bygone days, when it wasn't unusual for serious music to be seen more often than it was heard, the scholar-­not the performer or even the composer--commanded the greatest respect. Music was understood not merely as a creative or performing art but more importantly as a mathematical discipline whose principles informed the entire cosmos. It was a revelation of the Word of God through the medium of sound, and no human activity whether good or evil, could be properly understood without reference to the very consonances and dissonances that kept the stars and planets in their respective spheres.

Today, of course, that sort of thinking is generally considered rubbish. But in this brave new postmodern world of ours, rubbish has become the focus of the loftiest intellectual enterprises. Indeed, making rubbish out of the so-called classics has become virtually de rigueur for respectable scholars, many of whose careers are built on deconstructing the silly myths foisted on the Western world by dead white Europeans.

In A Little Eye Music, on the other hand, I've set about to reconstruct as much theology as my lamentably latter place in history will allow. This I 've done by exposing the curiously compelling connections between two words of obvious spiritual significance spelled exactly the same but with different origins and meanings, whose definitions, derived from Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, are given below:

agape - n. 1. the love of God or Christ for mankind. 2. the brotherly or spiritual love of one Christian for another, corresponding to the love of God for man. 3. unselfish love of one person for another without sexual implications; brotherly love. 4. love feast

agape - adv., adj. 1. with the mouth wide open; in an attitude of wonder or eagerness 2. Wide open: his mouth agape.

The reader will observe that the letters of these words can readily be expressed in purely musical terms by the pitches "A," "G," and "E," and the dynamic marking "p" for piano. This simple material, "carved out" of the homograph agape, thus serves as the basis of my entire score.

The first movement, titled "Leviathan," is prefaced by a quotation from the Book of Job which I have interpreted in as literal a manner as conventional musical notaton will allow. A fisherman, having cast his line down into the bass clef, has miraculously hooked the eponymous beast as it swims in the briny deep, agape with anticipation of a hearty meal. Alas, I expect that meal will be the fisherman himself, whom God so loved as to grant him precisely what he prayed for.

The second movement is a programmatic depiction of the legendary Venus's-flytrap. One of God's most glorious creations, this carnivorous plant ensnares its prey in hinged leaves with tooth-like bristles resembling open jaws that suddenly clamp shut when a fly or other insect exerts the slightest pressure. These "jaws" remain closed for about a week while digestive enzymes dissolve all but the unwary insect's exoskeleton. When the time is right, the Venus's-flytrap, alluringly agape once more, beckons to its next meal. Can there be any wonder that such a divine masterpiece of vegetative venery should also commemorate the Classical Goddess of Love?

Of all the weighty questions raised by theologians across the centuries, perhaps none has been more divisive than the number and nature of the relationship of the various "persons" of the Godhead. Trinitarians argue that He exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Muslims, on the other hand, counter that there is but one God, who has neither a son nor a Ghostly alter ego. Mathematically speaking, there are but four ratios describing the various possibilities: 1:1, 1:3, 3:1, or 3:3. Accordingly, these have been introduced in each of the four sections of the third movement, "Schism." The performer is free to chose that or those which most closely represent(s) his own opinion on the subject, or to ignore the matter--and the movement--entirely. At the very least he will observe that 'agape' is a preciously fragile thing, indeed.

Because such theological quandaries necessarily breed dissent, those whose religious views and practices differ markedly from the majority have often been ostracized and excommunicated, as illustrated in the fourth movement, "Heresy." As one who challenged the political and religious orthodoxy of his time, it can be reasonably argued that Jesus, in his infinite love for man, was the greatest of all heretics. So it seems that one good turn deserves another.

The fifth movement, "Scenes from the Inquisition," poses technical problems unique in the literature of the pianoforte. Indeed, its successful execution would require extensions that the human hand might only achieve by protracted recourse to the rack or some similar instrument of torture contrived to advance the career ambitions of nineteenth-century German pianists [Pace, R.S.!]. It is included in this suite only as a reminder that service to God often obliges men to stretch beyond 'reasonable' bounds.

"Table Music for a Glutton," the sixth movement, is nothing if not a dogged demonstration that opening one's mouth widely and wantonly to indulge bodily appetites must surely be reckoned among the deadliest of sins. What better proof of God's love can there be than an acute case of nausea?

By contrast, the seventh movement, "Love Feast," commemorates the prescribed consumption of God's flesh-bread and blood-wine by the faithful. Composed in the shape of a cross and appropriately sung to the Latin "Crucifixus," this music contains precisely enough beats to remind us why, in matters both commercial and theological, we should not underestimate the value of a baker's dozen.

Number eight, "Incantation" has little to do with the rest of the suite, but may prove useful for cleaning up after a performance.

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