Search

Program and Myth in Bolcom's Lilith

William Bolcom’s Lilith is a dramatic piece for alto saxophone and piano, written in 1984 for saxophonist Laura Hunter and pianist Brian Connelly. Every one of its five movements depicts a different aspect of the mythological figure Lilith, each with its own legendary and etymological derivation. As an introductory note to his piano score, Bolcom gives multiple descriptions of Lilith, demonstrating that he feels that some understanding of the subject matter is integral to the performance of the chamber work. Each of these descriptions, although basic, define Lilith in some way as a demon, beginning with the more-common Jewish depiction as well as citing those from early Western civilizations like Akkad and Mesopotamia, and the later cultures of Ancient Greece, Rome, and Europe. The brevity of Bolcolm’s definitions are no indication of the amount of material available on the subject of Lilith however, and a more thorough understanding of Lilith’s origins and associated imagery could stand to inform the performer as much as they informed the composition. Throughout the work are performance instructions, extended techniques, and musical textures which invoke or are seem to be derived from dramatic imagery. The realization of this imagery by the involved musicians could transform what otherwise might simply be a technically-facile performance into a brilliantly musical interpretation. To that end, the purpose of this paper is to seek out the ways in which the music portrays the many facets of this historically-significant figure in its contrasting movements: “The Female Demon,” “Succuba,” “Will-o’-the-Wisp,” “Child Stealer,” and “The Night Dance.”


When asked in an e-mail interview with the author, appended at the end of this paper, if a thorough understanding of Lilith would contribute to a more effective or emotionally-charged performance, Bolcom wrote that it wasn’t “necessary to become a cultural anthropologist,” and that Lilith is “the stuff of many different stories and legends,” some of which conflict. For this piece, he was more interested in the “mythological aspect as a human phenomenon” (Bolcom, E-mail interview). Each movement is an abstract representation of the concept or characteristic indicated by its title. “Programmatic references would be too specific,” he wrote; instead he was “after a certain atmosphere.” Still, when asked about the meaning of two movements’ titles that weren’t explicitly related to the definitions set forth in the composer’s note (“Will-o’-the-wisp” and “The Night Dance”), Bolcom responded with programmatic descriptions that could be easily visualized. Spread throughout the composition are performance instructions associating passages and musical fragments with emotional states and extra-musical sounds. It seems that rather than lay out a discernible story line, his programmatic approach was instead to invoke emotional content and non-specific imagery.


Titled “The Female Demon,” the first movement has among its tempo indications adjectives like “wild,” “raunchy,” “suddenly sweet,” “skitter,” “slow and sensual,” “yearning,” “rough,” “lyrical,” “wistful,” and “fluttery” (Bolcom, Lilith 3-6). Many of these adjectives correspond to textures that are quoted and alluded to throughout the piece, and are seemingly related to mythological descriptions of Lilith. As part of his compositional arsenal, to be discussed in greater detail, Bolcom used extended saxophone techniques including glissandi, growling, and multiphonics, among others. He commented that “they fit the wildness of the character,” and that he wouldn’t likely have use for them again (Bolcom, E-mail interview). In the last measure of the first movement, Bolcom places an asterisk next to the saxophonist’s growled glissando-ascent into a screeching multiphonic that indicates it should be played “like the cry of a roc” (Bolcom Lilith 6). A roc is a giant mythical bird said to be able to carry off and eat elephants (“roc”).


Since the piece is designed to represent the multi-faceted character of Lilith, a more comprehensive understanding, though perhaps not an anthropological one, stands to affect the way performers might conceptualize the work. Lilith is an ancient and complex character whose origins, as Hurwitz states, are in the most ancient Western cultures of the Middle East (32) and who is still present in contemporary literature and popular culture. According to Amy Scerba, who investigated the literary evolution of Lilith from ancient times to the present, Lilith has risen to become an icon of feminism and the independent woman (“Introduction”) owing in part to a ninth century Hebrew text, The Alphabet of Ben Sira, which describes her beginnings as the predecessor to Eve. The prophet, Ben Sira, recants the tale of Lilith and her origin in Eden for King Nebuchadnezzar:


And He fashioned for man a woman from the earth, like him (Adam), and called her Lilith. Soon they began to quarrel with each other. She said to him: I will not lie underneath [during sexual intercourse], and he said: I will not lie underneath but above, for you are meant to lie underneath, and I to lie above. She said to him: We are both equal, because we are both (created) from the earth. But they didn’t listen to each other. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced God’s avowed name and flew into the air. (qtd. In Hurwitz, trans. by M. Steinschneider, 120)

It is the assertive quality of Lilith demonstrated in The Alphabet of Ben Sira that drew Bolcom to fashion his chamber work around the subject. Bolcom wrote: “I had an image of the liberated woman – Adam’s first wife who wouldn’t behave. Laura Hunter [for whom the piece was written] is a very strong-minded independent woman, and I thought she’d respond to the character” (Bolcom, E-mail interview).


After deciding the context of his new piece for saxophone and piano, Bolcom researched Lilith in greater detail, drawing upon articles that quoted Biblical dictionaries, and later a book that Laura Hunter sent to him (Bolcom, E-mail interview). From these sources he wrote the brief composer’s note that preceded the piano score, including:


LILITH: A female demon believed to haunt desolate places. She is identified in a Canaanite charm of the eighth century B.C., and likewise in post-Biblical Jewish literature, with the child-stealing witch of worldwide folklore. The name derives from Sumerian “lil,” “wind” (i.e. “spirit”)… (Bolcom, Lilith 2)

The note goes on to list some of the other cultures that describe Lilith or a derivative character, including ancient Rome and Greece, Akkad, Mesopotamia, and Europe, and concludes with a quote from a translation of the Bible that associates Lilith with wild beasts and desert wastelands. Some of the following primary sources were integral to Lilith’s mythological evolution and can serve as an elaboration of Bolcom’s definition and a departure point for an interpretive analysis of his piece.


In his study of Lilith’s historical development, Hurwitz catalogs many different entities that have similar child-stealing and seductive characteristics to those of later manifestations of Lilith. According to Patai, the first etymologically related references to Lilith appear in Sumerian texts dating from the third millennium BCE as Lillu and Lilitu that were “night-demons” belonging to an “incubi-succubae class.” These succubae and incubi would visit men and women (respectively) in the night and copulate with them, producing demon offspring (207).


“Gilgamesh and the Huluppu-Tree” is a Sumerian tale related to the Gilgamesh epic that was recorded around 2000 BCE, but may have origins from much earlier (Hurwitz 49). In the tale, as translated by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer, “the dark maid Lilith” makes her home in the huluppu-tree, planted in a holy garden by the Queen of Heaven and Earth, Innana, along with a “serpent who could not be charmed” and the “Anzu-bird” (6). Koltuv notes that the Anzu-bird is known for causing mischief (23). Amy Scerba postulates that this early text sets a precedent for Lilith’s later appearances in the story of Eden, and her propensity to flee (“Gilgamesh and the Huluppu-Tree”) to what Wolkstein and Kramer translate as “the wild, uninhabited places”(9). A Sumerian terracotta relief dating from the same era, “The Lady of the Beasts,” depicts Lilith as a beautiful nude woman with wings and bird feet, flanked by wise owls of the night and exercising dominion over the masculine “solar lions” (Kultov 27-28) .


The only Biblical passage (Isaiah 34:14) pertaining to Lilith dates from the ninth century BCE, and like the Gilgamesh story presumes the reader’s foreknowledge of Lilith’s nature (Scerba, “Isaiah 34:14”):


Wild cats shall meet with desert beasts satyrs shall call to one another There shall the lilith repose and find herself a place of rest (The New American Bible 1051)

This interpretation is not universally accepted, and in fact other translations include alternatives to Lilith’s name, such as “night hag” and “screech-owl” (Scofield 740; May and Metzger 863). Bolcom provides a different, but closely related translation in his composer’s note, one that does refer specifically to Lilith. Still, whether or not the passage actually refers to her is unimportant because it is a commonly-cited historical text in her mythological background (Scerba, “Isaiah 34:14”) and it has greatly contributed to her modern image. It, with the preceding two examples, establishes a precedent for Lilith’s association with animals, particularly those with a dangerous or evil connotation like the snake and certain birds. Bolcom references animals in several movements as part of his written performance instruction.


Examples of Lilith from the last two millennia are mostly Hebrew in origin and contribute more specifically to the contemporary state of the Lilith myth because they are more biographical and not simply referential. These sources lead appropriately into a discussion of Bolcom’s musical portrait. The Testament of Solomon dates from around the first centuries CE (Hurwitz 115), and is a clear example of Lilith as a child-slayer. The specific demon named in the text is “Obizuth,” but she counts among her many names, Lilith (Scerba “The Testament of Solomon”). She tells King Solomon:


When I see the hour approaching, I take my place and when I spot an opportune moment, I strangle the child. If I fail, then I withdraw to another place, because I cannot pass even one single night without success… For I have nothing else to do but kill children, make their ears deaf, cause harm to their eyes, shut their mouths fast, befuddle their senses and torment their bodies. (qtd. in Hurwitz: 116)

Aramaic inscriptions found on sixth-century bowls from the Babylonian region have strikingly similar stories to The Testament of Solomon, with Lilith describing in graphic detail her intentions to cause children bodily harm (Patai 211, 215).


The Alphabet of Ben Sira, quoted earlier, describes the origin of Lilith’s compulsion to destroy the children of men. After fleeing Eden following her argument with Adam, Lilith finally settled in the desert by the Red Sea, where she “engaged in unbridled promiscuity, consorting with lascivious demons, and gave birth to hundreds of Lilim or demonic babies, daily” (qtd. in Koltuv: 20). As translated by Steinschneider, God sends three angels to negotiate Lilith’s return to Eden, whereupon she refuses and instead consents to allow one hundred of her demon children to die every day. She decrees that her purpose is to harm human children in the days immediately following their births, but that she will refrain when a child wears an amulet bearing the names of the three angels. The story that the prophet Ben Sira tells the king is an explanation of the significance of healing amulets, one of which he places upon the king’s son (qtd. in Hurwitz: 119-121). These amulets, along with similar incantations and rites described in the twelfth-century Book of Raziel, became prevalent in Jewish tradition, and were in common practice into the nineteenth century (Patai 227-228).


The fourth movement of Bolcom’s Lilith, “Child-Stealer” is unique from the other movements in its copious use of extended saxophone and piano techniques and lesser reliance on traditional musical elements like melodic line and vertical sonority. Instead, it creates a special atmosphere through the use of sound effects and melodic or harmonic fragments. The movement is marked “Free, slow” (Bolcom, Lilith 14) and has an open time signature, which is consistent with the overall cadenza-like structure. Barlines are organized according to chord articulations in the piano, perhaps to facilitate ensemble, and measures frequently extend across multiple staves. From the beginning, the saxophonist is instructed to direct the sound into the piano up until the last few seconds of the movement, so that every gesture reverberates through sympathetic vibration. To facilitate this technique, the pianist holds the sustain pedal throughout the entire movement, with specific pedaling instructions that correspond to changes in vertical harmonies. The pianist is also directed to “flutter” the pedal before releasing it in measures 1, 3, and 4, resulting in a wavering, vibrato-like sound from the resonating strings. Many of the piano’s musical fragments are to be played by plucking the strings of the interior piano with the fingernails. The amalgamation of the different non-traditional techniques between the two instruments results in an unsettling, alien texture that creates the dark mood that is appropriate for the movement’s subject matter.


A ritual bowl from Nippur reveals in graphic detail Lilith’s intentions “to take [a mother’s] child which is being bore to her, to suck its blood, and to suck the marrow of its bones, and to seal its flesh” (Patai 214-215). In the fourth movement of Bolcom’s Lilith, the piano and the saxophone begin the first measure together, one with a violent pizzicato chord, and the other with a shrieking growled glissando. The saxophonist’s last gesture of the movement is a glissando-approached long-tone that slowly decays to pppp. Bolcom’s performance note above it is “like a wail in the distance” (Bolcom, Lilith 15), so by comparison the saxophonist’s opening gesture is a horrified scream, like that of a mother having lost her child, or a child being ripped from his or her crib. The saxophone follows the shriek with two eerie effects; one marked “echo--tone,” and the other a subtone decelerating “smorzato,” or tongue-less embouchure articulation, that bears resemblance to the piano’s sustain pedal flutter. The second measure begins in the same manner, the saxophonist shrieking even higher in its altissimo register and following with an echo-tone gesture. The saxophone flutter-tongues and growls into measure 3 as it does in the second movement, transitions to a sweet, seductive melody alluding to the first and second movements, a pseudo-leitmotif, and closes out the measure with three inhuman “smack” sounds, all effectively placing Lilith in the scene.


What follows in the next five measures seems more playful. The gestures in the saxophone become lighter and more melodic, but still with an underlying violence denoted by sharp articulations marked “bitten” and growls in measures 6 and 7, respectively. On one hand, the music is seemingly demonstrative of Lilith’s disdain for the infant’s life, stemming from her resentment at having her own demon offspring killed by God every day (Scerba, “The Alphabet of Ben Sira”), a sensation which is facilitated by Bolcom’s marking “unctuous” in measure 4. At the same time, the music could be representative of the child itself, as described in Jewish ritual beliefs: “If children laugh in their sleep, or if they laugh while they are awake but alone, this is a sign showing that Lilith is playing with them” (qtd. in Patai 228). The last four measures of the movement return to the eerie mood of its beginning and seem to retreat away, as Bolcom describes, like Lilith to “her hideouts” (Bolcom, E-mail interview), ending appropriately with a wail in the distance.


References to Lilith in The Zohar, a fourteenth-century text central to the Jewish Kabbalah (Hurwitz 139), are descriptive amalgamations of many of the sources given above. In it, Lilith is contextualized in her many different manifestations: as a predecessor to Eve, a child-slayer, a succubus, and in greater detail, a female demon and counterpart to Samael, the Devil (Scerba “The Zohar”). Patai translates a passage describing her activities as a succubus:


“She (Lilith) roams at night, and goes all about the world and makes sport with men and causes them to emit seed. In every place where a man sleeps alone in a house, she visits him and grabs him and attaches herself to him and has her desire from him, and bears from him. And she also afflicts him with sickness, and he knows it not, and all this takes place when the moon is on the wane.” (221)

Patai goes on to say that Lilith was given as an explanation for nocturnal emissions, and was believed to reside in the beds of married couples, hoping to take spilt seed in order to make her Lilin (221-223). In a later passage of The Zohar, Lilith is described in a manner harkening back to the Sumerian myths – as a seductress of the waking world who seeks out and destroys men:


She adorns herself with many ornaments like a despicable harlot, and takes up her position at the crossroads to seduce the sons of man. When a fool approaches her, she grabs him, kisses him, and pours him wine of dregs of viper’s gall… Yon fool goes astray after her and drinks from the cup of wine and commits with her fornications and strays after her… She leaves him asleep on the couch, flies up to heaven, denounces him, takes her leave, and descends. That fool awakens and deems he can make sport with her as before, but she removes her ornaments and turns into a menacing figure. She stands before him clothed in garments of flaming fire, inspiring terror and making body and soul tremble, full of frightening eyes, in her hand a drawn sword dripping in bitter drops. And she kills that fool and casts him into Gehenna.” (222)

The second movement of Lilith, entitled “Succuba,” is devoted to her mythical persona associated with sexuality as described above. The initial tempo marking is “Adagio religioso,” (Bolcom, Lilith 7) and the piano begins the movement alone with a gentle asymmetrical eighth-note line that is both serene and ominous. The chords are tertian-based but are voiced in unusual inversions and spacings that subvert their consonance. Bolcom indicates to the pianist that the line should be both “absolutely even & smooth.” The effect is seductive while still foreshadowing violence, like the afore-mentioned harlot waiting at the crossroads. After three measures the eighth-notes arrive at a dissonant sustained chord in measure 4 and the saxophone makes its first appearance of the movement with a long tone that is articulated with a sforzando-like “mfpp” and fades to pianissimo. Bolcom writes above the note “like a wild animal’s soft growl,” and the saxophonist is indicated to begin the note with a guttural noise and transition to normal tone. This technique pervades this movement, and though it appears throughout the whole piece, in the second movement it is clearly associated with animal sounds more than simply Lilith’s primitive and violent character.


Most of the earliest references in Lilith mythology associate her with various creatures of a threatening nature, like wild carnivores and unclean birds. In the second movement, this aspect is juxtaposed with her sexuality, exemplified in the entrance of the saxophone in the measure 10 of the second movement, which again is preceded by the serene eighth-note line in the piano. The saxophone enters as before, more violent this time with harsh accents and a growl, and its line then becomes a sweet and capricious, concluding in measure 13 with an intriguing sixteenth-note gesture and a seductive glissando. The piano rhythm beginning in measure 14 becomes more disjunct and the saxophone plays a gentle melody floating above the texture, marked “simply,” that decays at its end to a soft growl in measure 17. This playful exchange continues throughout the relatively short movement. Attractive melodies inevitably reveal their primitive violence like Lilith as the temptress, leading men astray and unleashing her wrath upon them. One could also draw comparison of this movement to the peaceful slumber of unsuspecting men, whose dreams Lilith intrudes and uses to conceive her offspring.


At first, the title of the third movement, “Will-o’-the-Wisp,” does not seem to be directly related to context of Lilith set forth in the composer’s introductory note. Considering Bolcom’s comments in the appended e-mail interview however, his intention to create atmospheres rather than program reveals the connection between the will-o’-the-wisp and the nature of Lilith. When asked directly about the movement’s meaning to him, Bolcom responded:


Both those [including the fifth movement, “The Night Dance”] are of Lilith in the woods, running to or in her hideouts (as is “Child-Stealer”). They depict her in character, both hag and seductress, always a wild creature. (Bolcom, E-mail interview)

Will-o’-the-wisp, also known as jack-o’-lantern or ignis fatuus, is an atmospheric phenomenon. It results in a flickering light near swamps or marshes that seems to recede when approached, and in folk-lore has come to be associated with the metaphysical, like the wandering of a lost soul (“jack-o’-lantern”). According to the Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, a will-o’-the-wisp is “anything that deludes or misleads by luring on” (“will-o’-the-wisp”), just the way a succubus does. These associations, along with Bolcom’s conceptualizations of Lilith retreating into the woods, clearly establish a parallel between the title of the third movement and Lilith mythology.


The movement is marked “Presto possibile” (Bolcom, Lilith 10) and is to be played without a discernible pulse, despite the 32nd-note beamings that are given to facilitate performance. The entire movement has a running 32nd-note line, with only a few slight pauses. The result is a feeling of perpetual motion, which coincides well with the idea of a flickering light that dances in the air, just out of reach. This movement, like the fourth, has no time signature, and is in fact without measures and barlines entirely. Both the saxophone and the piano are indicated to play very quietly, and only occasionally rise out of the texture with an accent or energetic ascending figuration that is accompanied by a swell or crescendo. The first four systems scarcely have the two instruments playing at the same time, instead handing off a single line back and forth to each other. After the texture is firmly established, the saxophone begins to branch out over the piano 32nd-notes and plays familiar melodic gestures from the first and second movements that specifically relate the movement to Lilith. The melody marked “freely” on the second system of page twelve is constructed from first movement material seen in measure 12 and the third system. The saxophone returns briefly to the running line and departs again through the first system of the thirteenth page, interjecting familiar multiphonics and flutter-tongue gestures from the first and second movements, all depicting Lilith’s “wild” character (Bolcom, E-mail interview).


The fifth movement, like the first, sums up a lot of the imagery exposed in the entire piece, but with almost entirely new musical material. True to its title, the rhythmic profile of the piece is very dance-like, facilitated by a triple compound meter with a triplet subdivision (27/16 or 9/dotted eighth). The beginning of the movement reminds the listener of Lilith as a temptress with a beautiful and non-combative texture. The saxophone and the piano play in parallel motion a melody marked “seductive” (Bolcom Lilith, 16), each phrase of which ends in a sustained chord that has an underlying “dry” and ominous rhythmic gesture in the low register of the piano. After its conclusion in measure 7, a variation of the melody begins with the piano chords re-voiced in a manner reminiscent of the second movement’s opening: both serene and foreboding. In measure 19, the saxophone begins a contrasting theme derived from the rhythmic low-register piano gesture, marked “scherzando.” The character of the line is very playful, in conjunction with the marking, and also has an air of disdain and mockery that one could associate with Lilith as a contemptuous child-stealer.


At measure 24, the fifth movement transitions into a dance, through a rhythmic ostinato in the left hand that effectively invokes the image of Lilith running through the woods as Bolcom described. The texture is less dense and more focused, similar to that of the third movement, the majority of the time in three contrapuntal lines that contrast with the thick vertical harmonies of the movement’s opening. In measures 32 and 33 the saxophone has two chromatic grace-note gestures leading into syncopated accents that have the raunchy character of jazz “bends.” Measure 36 follows with contrasting “wild” sforzandos, crescendi, and guttural sounds in the saxophone over a running sixteenth-note line in the extreme high register of the piano. These produce the sensation of being taunted, as an animal-like Lilith might dare her would-be pursuers through the woods.


The dance returns in measure 47 with a similar confident character, punctuated by what Bolcom calls “grotesque” multiphonics in measures 55 and 56. The dance winds down into measure 60 and concludes with a cadenza arpeggiation in the saxophone resembling the opening cadenza of the first movement, a bold gesture with all the confidence of a thriving female demon. In measure 61 the seductive parallel-motion texture returns, this time with the melody in the saxophone’s highest register, marked “sweet, unearthly,” and the running sixteenths in piano’s highest register. What follows is an echo of the dance, the piano marked pianissimo for its melody and rhythmic bass accompaniment, while the saxophone returns to its dramatic dynamic gestures and trills, rising in measure 82 into its high register once more, and ending the movement with a loud, “throaty” growl. The piece ends with a concise exposition of Lilith’s most basic characteristics: her divine origins and enchanting beauty, and her wild and ferocious nature.


This paper has demonstrated numerous potential connections between Bolcom’s chamber work Lilith and the many mythological sources that have contributed to Lilith’s modern image. Comparisons can be made between the music and the literature, relating gestures, textures, and sonorities with descriptive imagery and emotive abstractions, all serving to make a more dynamic and engaging performance for the audience. Lilith belongs to a great body of programmatic works, because although it is not narrative, it is no less emotionally-charged.


Works Cited


Bolcom, William. E-mail interview. 21 February 2008.


Bolcom, William. Lilith: for E-flat alto saxophone and piano. New York: E.B. Marks Music, 2004.

Catholic Biblical Association of America, and Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. The New American Bible. New York: P.J. Kenedy, 1970.


Hurwitz, Siegmund. Lilith, the First Eve: Historical and Psychological Aspects of the Dark Feminine. Trans. Gela Jacobson. Einsiedeln, Switzerland: Daimon Verlag, 1992.


“ignis fatuus.” Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1997.


"jack-o'-lantern." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 31 Mar. 2008 .


Koltuv, Barbara Black. The Book of Lilith. York Beach, Maine: Micolas-Hays, Inc., 1986.


May, Herbert G., and Bruce Manning Metzger. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha: Revised Standard Version, Containing the Second Edition of the New Testament and an Expanded Edition of the Apocrypha. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.


Patai, Raphael. The Hebrew Goddess. New York: Ktav Pub. House, 1968.


"roc." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 31 Mar. 2008 .


Scerba, Amy. Changing Literary Respresentations of Lilith and the Evolution of a Mythical Heroine. Feminine and Women’s Studies. 11 February 2005. Carnegie Mellon University. 1 February 2008 .


Scofield, C. I. The New Scofield Reference Bible; Holy Bible, Authorized King James Version, with Introductions, Annotations, Subject Chain References, and Such Word Changes in the Text As Will Help the Reader. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.


“will-o’-the-wisp.” Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1997.


Wolkstein, Diane, and Samuel Noah Kramer. Innana, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her stories and Hymns from Sumer. New York: Harper & Row, 1983.


Appendix: Email Interview with Dr. William Bolcom


Letters appearing in italics are Dr. Bolcom’s responses.


Dear Dr. Bolcom,


Thank you very much for taking the time to consult me on this project. Here are my questions for you:


You include in the Piano Score a composer’s note that outlines several different cultural definitions of Lilith, indicating that they came from biblical dictionaries. Were these your primary resources in researching the mythology? Did you use any other resources, like cultural texts (Gilgamesh, The Zohar, etc.)?


I read articles that quoted these dictionaries – also – later – a book on the Lilith legend (can't remember what it was – it was actually sent by Luara Hunter, whom I wrote the piece for). I'd nosed into the Gilgamesh but did not look into Zohar.


Did anything in particular draw you to the subject? Were you already interested in it before you received the commission?


I had an image of the liberated woman – Adam's first wife who wouldn't behave. Laura Hunter is a very strong-minded independent woman, and I thought she'd respond to the character, which she certainly did – she would set the tone for subsequent performances.


Did you research Lilith before beginning the compositional process? Is any of your thematic, pitch, or other material derived from the mythology?


No, no.


Do you feel that a thorough understanding of Lilith contributes to more effective or more emotionally-charged performance, or is a basic understanding sufficient?


I don't think it is necessary to become a cultural anthropologist studying mythology. After all Lilith is, like Medusa, the stuff of many different stories and legends – some conflicting – and I'm mostly interested in the mythological aspect as a human phenomenon.


Are there explicitly programmatic elements in each movement that you associate with their respective titles, or is each movement more like an abstract representation of a concept or characteristic?


I'd say the latter. Programmatic references would be too specific – I'm after a certain atmosphere.


Is there a specific aspect of Lilith that you associate with the third movement, “Will-o’-the-Wisp?” What does movement V, “The Night Dance” represent to you?


Both those are of Lilith in the woods, running to or in her hideouts (as is “Child-Stealer”). They depict her in character, both hag and seductress, always a wild creature.


Did you coach Laura Hunter and Brian Connelly on the piece, or any other duos since?


Yes, several


Did you discuss in any greater detail the programmatic elements of the piece as part of your coaching?


I think the published and recorded notes seems sufficient – most players have looked at them evidently


Did you include program notes at the premiere performance?


I don't remember – you'd have to check with Laura H.?


If so, were they comparable to your composer’s note?


Again – I don't remember – probably


If you would prefer, I can also send these questions in a Word document.


I should add that this is the only instance I have used extended sax techniques in any work to such an extent. They fit the wildness of the character. However in the time Lilith was written, a lot of people were writing these sounds (multiphonics etc.) for their own sakes. This music seems very dated now. I doubt I'll have too much recourse to the Lilith arsenal of sax sounds again.


Thanks,

Michael

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

I recognize and celebrate your “right to write,” to compose, express your innermost feelings, create or recreate impressions of life around you, to celebrate beauty (or otherwise), make social comment

Am I a good teacher? Am I a good model? Do I care about my students? If I care, do I treat them as I do my own children? Do I foster their dreams? Do I listen to my students? Do my students listen to

If first, we learn six new measures each day, of some work we do not think we can play, or do not wish to play: then, very soon, we find that we can play anything, and, that we wish to play everything