"Water Clocks" is the first movement of "Theft", which was commissioned and premiered by Vancouver's Standing Wave Ensemble, October, 2009.
Program note for the entire piece follows:
"In the meantime, through an oversight that José Arcadio Buendía never forgave himself for, the candy animals made in the house were still being sold in the town. Children and adults sucked with delight on the delicious little green roosters of insomnia, the exquisite pink fish of insomnia, and the tender yellow ponies of insomnia, so that dawn on Monday found the whole town awake."
- - One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Marquez
One Hundred Years of Solitude epitomizes Magic Realism, or 'what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.' Certainly, a town full of candy-munching insomniacs qualifies.
But when Franz Roh first invented the phrase in 1925, the meaning was quite different than it is today. Roh's definition, applied initially to a new stream of representative visual art, suggested that any mundane object can appear fantastic and bizarre if we truly look at it. I believe this is the way children see the world; in fact, I recall experiencing my own variety of Magic Realism the first time I saw an egg-beater.
Regarding musical representations of Magic Realism, Theft turns out to be something of a combination of the definitions. The initial inspirations for the piece were two arresting images found in One Hundred Years of Solitude: the insomnia-ridden town, and the "water-clock secrets of the moths."
In Marquez's novel, we never find out what the moths' secrets are, and this mystery intrigued me. Moths continue to mystify the scientific world; despite careful observation, no one knows why moths are obsessively drawn to light. The moths are an enigmatic lot. The water clocks continue their inexorable theft of water and time, unchanged and unchangeable whilst the disturbed, possibly malevolent fluttering continues.
Insomnia, on the other hand, has a manic quality loosely based on the feeling of panic/fascination that ensues when you hear the birds start to sing loudly in the morning after you've been up all night. Much as I love birds, hearing them at that hour and in that mind-set they seem surreal and alternately evil/hilarious, as does much of the world if you're sufficiently sleep-deprived, or following the recent machinations of the BC government. Weird cross-rhythms, abrupt shifts of mood, and extremes of register contribute to the general freakishness.