Oracle (2018) 20'
For solo cello.
Premiered at the Curtis Institute of Music by Zachary Mowitz, 11/17/18. Self-published (Morningside Press, ASCAP).
Oracle is inspired by stories of the Oracle at Delphi, one of the most powerful women in antiquity. The Oracle served as a prophet and counselor for the Ancient Greeks for over a thousand years, with each new high priestess influencing world-shaping political decisions. Consultations with the Oracle were among the most well-documented Ancient Greek practices, and yet it is still unclear how the Oracle actually delivered her prophecies. Some records claim she inhaled vapors to enter a frenzied state; others suggest she spoke in perfect dactylic hexameter, the meter of classical epic poetry. My music is especially interested in these two strikingly different accounts of the Oracle’s voice. Each movement asks the soloist to speak with contrasting colors, evoking both the controlled, poetic side and the crazed, ecstatic side of the oracular voice. These distinct ways of speaking are then woven together into unified phrases, tracing a broad story arc that spans all five movements.
The title of each movement comes from the Delphic maxims, a collection of aphorisms attributed to the Oracle. The five I’ve chosen are Speak Plainly, Despise Strife, Pursue Harmony, Praise Hope, and Know Thyself. For me, these aphorisms connect to feelings I've had about the political complexion of our modern world. I found myself thinking quite broadly as I was composing; to me, it seems like the world could still use an Oracle, a shared voice of wisdom guiding us towards a better future.