invocation

2018

(Soprano, cello, piano & fixed electronics) 10'

Preview score

commissioning note

With thanks to the inimitable Fresh Squeezed Opera for commissioning Invocation as part of "The Female Gaze"

Programme note

Invocation intertwines lines from two ancient Egyptian magical hymns. The original hymns are syncretic fusions of Roman-Egyptian polytheistic beliefs and rituals and early Christian and Gnostic beliefs.

 

One hymn is a supplication to Hecate, an ancient goddess of the night, moon, wilderness, liminal spaces, and protector of the newly-born. Pre-dating Greek mythology, Hecate was originally thought of as a powerful goddess and protector of women with her own cult of worshippers and eunuchs. The hymn is a paean featuring expiatory offerings of foods and sacrifices.

 

The other hymn is startlingly threatening in tone. It demands that the supplicant’s desires are met, and its lines form a curse. The focus is cold and commanding, and the tone is menacing. The singer insists that if his will is not done, “tomorrow will not come”. With Invocation I wanted to set the hymns' inverse power dynamics within and against each other.

 

Over time, representations of Hecate shifted, and she eventually came to be a chthonic hag associated with evil, witchcraft, magic, and necromancy. Her name appears on surviving examples of stone tablets inscribed with curses.

 

While writing Invocation I was thinking about how a powerful pre-Hellenistic goddess could be reduced to a hag commanded by mortal beings.

 

electronic setup

You will need:

To play the fixed electronics

 

  • A laptop with free QLab software (there is currently no tablet/iPad version of QLab)

  • A MIDI foot pedal (an electronic piano expression/sustain pedal won't work) and cable to connect it to the laptop

  • Stereo speakers and mixing desk

  • Audio interface and cables from laptop to mixing desk

 

For amplification (required)

 

  • Directional microphones

  • Microphone stands

  • XLR cables connecting the microphones to the mixing desk

  • Speakers

Invocation title.jpeg