Silvina Milstein's of gold and shadows
Of gold and shadows was premiered by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group conducted by Oliver Knussen on Sunday 25 September at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham.
You can listen to Silvina talking about her experience of rehearsing of gold and shadows here
Silvina Milstein -- de oro y sombra (of gold and shadows) for 14 instruments
Two gates the silent house of Sleep adorn;
Of polish'd ivory this, that of transparent horn:
True visions thro' transparent horn arise;
Thro' polish'd ivory pass deluding lies.
(Aeneid, Book 6, lines 893-6, trans. J. Dryden)
Of gold and shadows follows closely from surrounded by distance (2008), where I was drawn to exploring the indefinable, yet seemingly precise manner in which musical shapes and configurations arise spontaneously in my awareness as evocative appearances and illusory continuities. But this time the use of brass sonorities occasionally punctuating the continuous veil of translucent chords resting on the hollow sound of a bass flute, has led me to uncharted territories.
While composing this piece I became attracted by the mysterious spaces depicted in some ancient contemplative Chinese landscapes that I encountered last summer at an exhibition at the Grand Palais. Seen from a distance one of these thin horizontal hand-scrolls – coloured in ‘muted ochre’ and pale lapis lazuli – seemed like a full-scale ‘tiger of gold and shadows’ lying in a glass case. But as I approached it, instead – no longer being able see the totality at a glance due to its extensive width – I could discern a dense web of boulders, cliffs, a stream crisscrossed by footbridges, and winding paths bounded by balustrades that emerge to later disappear into masses of thickly foliated trees. I was particularly attracted to the combination of a densely saturated foreground with extended areas of open and vast background. Though mostly with no apparent hierarchies, this intricate mountainous landscape is effectively punctuated by two solitary figures, that despite their miniscule size function as powerful focuses of attention: at the centre a boy carrying a basket of ‘mushrooms of immortality’ and at one extreme an alchemist ‘standing alone in a promontory surrounded by an ocean of clouds …’
Of gold and shadows lasts twenty-two minutes and consists of four continuous increasingly shorter sections entitled:
first gate: of polished ivory this;
second gate: that of transparent horn;
echoes: thro’ transparent horn arise;
shadows: thro’ polish’d ivory pass.
The beginning of each section is marked by the return of elements from the opening bars of the piece.