The Man Who Was Thursday (2017)
Instrumentation: Violin, viola.
Description: This piece is based on G.K. Chesterton’s “nightmare” novel of the same title that was first published in 1907. I had been commissioned by my friend studying in the Czech Republic to write a piece for violin and viola. My teacher at the time suggested a dialogue between two characters (being the violin and viola), and we realized this book was the perfect fit for that. The piece was written using two methods of composing. The main way was how I normally compose my music, by taking a formal idea and sketching music. The other way was by taking bits of the text (from the opening and chapter 10, in this case) and numbering the dialogue, which I then translated as the two instruments "speaking" with each other. The music reaching a “screaming” climax that ends in a somewhat lengthy coda.
The work is built on two themes: Syme’s theme, introduced in the viola at the very beginning of the work (the first four notes), and Sunday’s theme, first introduced (again) in the viola at bar 93. Otherwise, the piece progresses as a tone poem with the idea of a four-movement Classical formula (allegro, slow, scherzo, (slow) finale) in mind, and allows the music to get more chaotic and nightmarish as Syme’s tale continues. (Even one section is full of references to London when the characters are running through the city – the Big Ben theme for the clock tower, Vaughan-Williams’ A Lark Ascending in the violin for the Royal Albert Hall, and glissandi for the London Eye.) A ragtime is used for Paris.
Below, you can find a few excerpts of the piece I performed on my violin at home.