Valdrada Frances White

Valdrada is based on an excerpt from Le cittˆ invisibili (Invisible cities) by Italo Calvino. Calvino’s book is a collection of prose poems, connected by the scenario of Marco Polo telling Kublai Khan stories of the fantastic cities which he has visited. The piece is based on Marco’s description of Valdrada, a city built upon the shore of a lake. Marco tells of how an arriving traveler sees not one but two cities: the “real” one above and its reflection in the water below; he then explains the peculiar awareness which the inhabitants of Valdrada have of their reflections in the lake. So great is their obsession with these mirrors of themselves that it becomes not so much their own actions and passions which are of importance to them, but those of their images in the water. Finally, Marco tells of the relationship between the city and its mirror: “the two cities live for one another, their eyes locked together; but there is no love between them.”

In composing Valdrada, I wanted to draw upon the imagery, atmosphere, and poetry of the text without creating an explicit “setting” of it. In particular, the images of mirrors and water were uppermost in my mind while composing. My treatment of the spoken text proceeded in a similar fashion: although the speech is never clearly recognizable, it shapes the rhythms, timbres, and overall gestures of the music. In the opening, for example, the rhythmic texture is the result of filtering only the consonants in the speech. The middle section then focuses on the timbres of the vowels, while the final section brings these together, with the filtered consonants accompanying the song-like vowel sounds.

Valdrada was composed in 1988 at the Brooklyn College Center for Computer Music.

  • Year of composition: 1988
  • Duration of the submitted work: 16:34

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