The House of the Hanged Man
‘Installation music for a concert environment’
First performance: Gabrielle Painter, violin; Alexandra Mackenzie, cello; Jennifer Mitchell, piano. Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York, 1998.
Performance note: the movements of this piece are intended to be distributed throughout the items of a piano trio concert, with the last, ‘Requiescat’ concluding the proceedings.
The House of the Hanged Man comprises two pieces of music ‘for the deceased artist’. It takes its title from a painting by Cézanne and recreates the musical worlds of composers Maurice Ravel and Jean-Philippe Rameau.
The first piece, entitled ‘Ravel-Rameau-Ravmeleau’, alludes to the music of the two French composers in a semi-dramatic way. For example, during the central section (Rameau), the music sounds as if the players are rehearsing their parts onstage, awaiting the start of a concert. The result is a ‘staged rehearsal’ of a section from one of Rameau’s Pièces de Clavecin.
The second piece, ‘Requiescat’, concerns the nostalgia associated with the fact that the music heard in the first piece invokes the legacies of two composers, both of whom are dead. And yet, to lovers of art of all kinds, it is hard to think of an artist as ever really dying. ‘Requiescat’ is a lamenting requiem on 3 levels: i) for the dead composers of the first movement, ii) for the first movement itself, which is now over and will not be heard again by the audience in the immediate future and iii) for all the other composers and works of art in this concert. As a eulogy, ‘Requiescat’ aligns itself with the title of the work in remembering the existence – indeed, the mortality - of both great artists and criminals (or Hanged Men) alike.