ARABESQUE. 2. "AD 1980". Live recording. Jeremy Bell, violin. Northern Lights Orchestra under the direction of Leonardo Gasparini. Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. February 22, 2013. Opening Gala Concert of the Scotiabank Northern Lights Festival 2013.
Arabesque for violin, piano and string orchestra is, in many respects, an autobiographical work, but its four movements (titled respectively, "Innocence", "A.D. 1980", "With Regret" and "Gypsy Heart") can also be seen as a metaphorical depiction of four stages of one’s life cycle, starting with the childhood purity and innocence of the first movement, through the rambunctious, disco-like exuberance of the second, in which the first seeds of introspection are also sown, to the introverted moody, coming-of-age third movement and, finally, to the defiant refusal to surrender in the finale, which at the very end nods briefly to the main theme of the first movement. (This “nod” signifies the re-discovery of the innocence of childhood and the understanding that only through such rediscovery is it possible to move forward and grow further). The various contradictory musical genres coexisting in Arabesque point to a post-“post-modern” understanding of structure as metaphor: of some lessons learned; of some wisdom gained; of willingness to apply all this towards renewed action.
A.D. 1980 is a puzzling movement that may require some autobiographical but also metaphorical explanation within the context of the structure of the larger work. Upon reflection, the year 1980 was the first and most important year of the rest of my life for me. I spent most of it working in a shopping mall in Niagara Falls (ABBA and other disco songs playing through the sound system endlessly) trying to survive a series of seismic shifts in my life, career and understanding of the world. Before this, it was abstract expressionism, elitism, self-involvement and fear of the unknown. After this, I embarked progressively on a spiritual journey that took me many years to fully recognize and understand but through which my life and my music underwent radical changes (twenty eight years later, my life is still a continuing reflection on the experiences of that time). The up-in-your face ABBA-like themes of the opening of this movement, give way to radically introspective moments in the composition, out of which grows a melody for the soloist, journeying through various tonalities, gently looking for meaning along its harmonic development. Its desire to find fulfillment crashes twice against the extroverted disco music, but in the second such encounter, the violin melody continues its upward ascent with (and in spite of) the disco music that accompanies it. At the end it resigns to the interior world of pure timbre, having not been able to reconcile the painful opposites that threaten to tear the structure apart in this movement.