Silk Spinners


Silk Spinners


wind trio

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  • Premiere: 2003 / Stonybrook, NY / Stonybrook Chamber Players
  • Instrumentation:
  • Duration: 9'

Program Note

The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together: our virtues would be proud if our faults whipped them not; and our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our virtues.
— William Shakespeare, All's Well that Ends Well, IV:iii

Arachne, a beautiful maiden of ancient Greece, boasted of her own skills as a weaver, angering Athene, goddess of wisdom and patroness of the arts, who mangled Arachne's body condemning her to weave for all time.  Anansi, a folk hero of West Africa, spun the fabric of life from which all humans were created, bearing the pot of wisdom on his back.    Reverend Dr. Thomas Muffet, an English scientist of the 16th century, believed passionately in the curative properties of the common house spider, experimenting frequently on his poor daughter Patience, the true-life "Little Miss Muffet."  A fascination with arachnids has been shared throughout history by countless cultures from around the globe.  In Silk Spinners, for oboe, clarinet and bass clarinet, I have explored my own fascination with spiders, calling on a distinct image for each of the three movements.

"Spinneret," focuses on the spinning of a new web, a process that begins as the spider produces from its largest spigot (the front spinneret) a dragline - a thread that secures the spider as it weaves.  This image of a safety line is represented musically by sustained pitches and static sections that return, transformed, throughout the piece.

"Orb Weavers" centers on the motion of a specific type of spider across its web to subdue its prey.  An orb weaver uses its first two pair of legs to secure its own position on the web, then uses its third pair to grab hold of its prey while entwining it with silk pulled forward by its forth.   The players move together during this movement while, as each pair of legs on the orb weaver, each instrument concentrates on its own individual task.

"Gossamer," focuses on the image of spiders traveling in masses.  When spiderlings leave their web for the first time, they cast out single lines of silk until they catch a gust of wind that lifts them away.  Thousands of spiderlings traveling in this manner at the same time may leave fields covered with these silken threads, known as gossamer.  In this movement, an ostinato and pedal tone shift in register as a single line spins through each of the instruments until all three are lifted into motion.