Commission: Radio France for the Festival Présences 2016
Reading the poems of Dorothy Molloy, Clara Iannotta says, is like being in a closed room in which the air is made of dust. At first we cannot see anything at all. Then, as our eyes grow accustomed to the gloom, she continues, we begin to notice what is around us: nuances of colour, different particles, and finally how a simple ray of light can transform a seemingly immobile world.
In Troglodyte Angels Clank By (its title taken from the final line of Molloy’s short poem ‘Sipping vodka’), the air is filled with the clack and creak of wooden ratchets, miniature string drums (known as Waldteufel), crumpled aluminium and fingernails rubbed along harp strings: thick, hanging braids of wood and skin and metal. As they slowly withdraw a ray of light appears in the form of high sine tones, at first heard as a residue of the receding threads, and then as a link to yet another room of sound. This one is filled with the whistle and chirrup of waterphones and ‘gelinotte’ birdcalls, crotales buzzing on timpani skins, and strings crying ‘seagull’ glissandi.
And then another room, and another. Each time something glimpsed in the distance is brought close, overwhelms, and recedes, revealing deeper and deeper layers. The images come and go, flowing from and into each other in turn, but never passing judgement, never supplanting or casting aside. In the end the air is as full as it ever was; only now we can see.
Troglodyte Angels Clank By was written for and first performed by Ensemble 2e2m in 2016.
© Tim Rutherford-Johnson, 2019