Gibellina (2014) - For Orchestra
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(picc 1221 cbsn/2221/timp/3perc/hp/pno/strings)
Composed for the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra
The title of my work, “Gibellina,” refers to the lost Sicilian city of the same name that was destroyed in an earthquake in 1968. The artist Alberto Burri built a large-scale memorial for the destroyed city in place of and directly on top of its ruins. This land artwork, “Cretto di Burri” (1984-1989), is one of the world’s largest works of contemporary art, a massive cement structure covering nearly twenty-five acres. The artwork maps itself onto the city plan of Gibellina, replicating the city blocks with giant, five-feet high slabs of cement that fill the space where buildings once stood, and creating the city streets with deeply cut channels or “cracks” in these slabs of cement that people can walk through. Gibellina was situated on a hillside in the mountains of Sicily and so one of the marvels of Burri’s work is that he was able to pour blocks of cement that maintain a consistent height on this steep incline.
I visited Gibellina in the spring of 2014 and my piece of music is inspired by my experience engaging with “Cretto di Burri” as a viewer, first from afar, then from within and finally from atop one of the concrete “city blocks” after climbing to its highest point on the hill.
My work begins with my reaction to seeing Burri’s structure from afar – this monumental concrete “city” situated in a windswept expanse, wind blowing through the channels in the concrete, and the whole artwork itself resting on the dramatic incline of a hillside in the Sicilian mountains.
In the middle of my work, the texture changes dramatically and I seek to recreate my memories and emotions of entering the artwork and walking through the sunken cement streets. As I walked through these channels of cement I imagined rising up around me a chorus of people’s voices who once lived there that now lay silenced under these concrete tombs. I tried to think of the sounds the city once used to make before it fell silent and to concrete. I slowly continued to walk up the hillside and climbed atop one of the concrete slabs at the top of the hillside to look out to the vista of mountains in the distance. On the other side of the valley I saw the large rectangles of farm fields filled with life and growth, which I thought of as a counterpart to the large rectangles of cement, memorializing death, that I was standing on. But these concrete slabs were not all barren from life – plants had started to take hold and bloom from smaller cracks in the cement.
“Gibellina” is six minutes in duration and was composed for the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra.