Dark December: Ignis Dei (2002)
for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Vibraphone, Piano
Duration: 8.25 min.
Dedication: for Non Sequitur
Commission: Commissioned by Maurice and Amy Katz for Non Sequitur
Publisher: Musik Fabrik
Performance materials available from the publisher.
Dark December: Ignis Dei (2002) was commissioned by Maurice and Amy Katz and was written for and is dedicated to Non Sequitur. It is scored for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, vibraphone, and piano, and is subtitled “processional doubles for mixed sextet.” (The word “doubles” is used in the old sense of “variations.”)
The source material for the composition is the composer’s original hymn tune DOLMEN CREEK (2002), whose text by Margaret Clarkson (“Burn in Me, Fire of God”) provides the “Ignis Dei” of the title and poetic conception. The poetic conception is one of an emergence of a single inner flame, amid a dark landscape.
The tune is never heard in its full or straightforward form – instead it is always heard in fragment or transformation. Its formal structure also provides the dimensions and structures of the four sections.
Formally, the work is cast in a single movement as a series of three “processionals” plus a final “glorification-postlude.” The conception of the work is ritualistic in tone, and pushes forward towards the end.
The opening processional (for the entire sextet) is very slow and distant and sets out transformations of the hymn tune in its most abstruse form. The second processional (for violin, cello, and vibraphone) is slightly faster and features an active and independent vibraphone part over a cortege in the two strings. The third processional (for flute, clarinet, and piano) is quick and nimble as gestures and material are passed between the two winds, and the piano provides commentary and allusions. In this processional, a fragment of the hymn is heard in its most clear form. The final glorification-postlude brings the entire ensemble together again in a vibrant coda of busy activity.