Long-time School of Music composer and lecturer Prof Larry Sitsky EM continues to write new compositions on a regular basis. 2015 saw Prof Sitsky begin his latest endeavour – digital opera! In November 2015, Sitsky composed his first work for digital production – Purgatory. Prof Sitsky wrote music to accompany the one-act play by Yeats, which will be released as an online production later this year. The project – which is a stepping-stone to the opera Dr Faust, forthcoming in 2016 – is a new endeavour. All the parts – piano, voice actors, and sound effects – are recorded and edited, and then layered with a video production of the acting and stage effects.
Purgatory tells the story of an old man and his young son. The play is set outside the family home which has been burnt down. The Old Man tells the Boy the story of how he killed his father, how his mother died in birthing him, and how their family declined through subsequent events. During the Old Man’s discourse with the Boy, a ghost appears – the Old Man’s mother. In an attempt to save his mother’s soul from purgatory, the Old Man kills the Boy, but ends up imprisoning himself in a supernatural world of hoof beats, and his parents’ spirits.
Prof Sitsky’s composition is not one continuous piece of music. It is fragments that accompany each monologue by the two characters, and which reflect the different themes that arise throughout their discourse, and which reflect the internal conflict of the Old Man. The music – written for solo piano – appears in fragments that reflect themes throughout the play. The Old man is haunted by the sound of galloping horses, which is reflected by the fast, and rhythmic theme in the piano. Similarly, the quiet, interchanging chordal passages reflect the feeling of being followed by the spirit of the Old Man’s dead mother.
Ellen Falconer, who completed her Honours year in 2015, has been studying piano under Prof Sitsky since 2014. Ellen recorded the music for Purgatory in late February, 2016. Since then, she and Prof Sitsky have worked on turning the accompanying music into a piece for solo piano. Purgatory, for Piano takes similar shape to the play, but with slight aphorisms and repeated sections to create a sense of shape and continuity within the music.
Purgatory, for Piano will be performed by Ellen in the Larry Sitsky Recital Room on Thursday 26th May, at 6pm. The first half of this free concert will feature Ellen performing works by Italian composer, Malipiero, and pieces by the French composer group Les Six. This will be followed by the premiere performance of Purgatory, for Piano, and some words from the composer himself.