CHAMBER MUSIC cello octet
Duration: ca. 10 minutes
Programme Note: What would you do in the face of an enraged, alcohol-fuelled outburst? Lee Krasner, the wife of American painter, Jackson Pollock, had to cope with these events during her 10 years of marriage. The art dealer, Peggy Guggenheim once likened Pollock to “a trapped animal who should have stayed in his burrow.” Gallery owner, Betty Parsons said, “He made you feel sad; even when he was happy, he made you feel like crying.”
Pollock was seen as a volatile, angry genius, with debilitating alcohol addiction. Whether despite this, or because of it, he was able to create a style that was new, if not controversial. He experienced great success, tragic burn-out, and an untimely death in a drunk driving crash in 1956.
The piece, commissioned by The Women’s Musical Club of Toronto, focuses on one particular incident. Pollock had been approached by German photographer, Hans Namuth with the idea to film the painter at work. Filming was completed on a cold October day, and the process completely unhinged and angered Pollock. He had been sober for a short period of time, but after the filming, began drinking again. Krasner had organized a celebratory dinner for the end-of-filming, but by the time the guests arrived, Pollock was raging drunk. As Krasner served dinner, Pollock flew into a rage against Namuth, upended the table with all its contents. As the dogs lapped up gravy and food, and the guests sat, stunned, Krasner said, “Coffee will be served in the living-room…”, and walked out.
Musically, the piece explores agitation, and the underlying sadness that seems to represent Pollock. The cellos sing, cry, scream, and shout, yet try to maintain normality.
Premiere: First performance Toronto, May 2018.