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Works » By Title » M » Magus (22:00 / 1977)

Jan Swafford

for cello and tape

“Magus” means ‘sorceror’. The dramatic development of my piece by that name is based on a simple allegory: the cello is the sorceror and the tape represents the object of his sorcery, the rest of this world. The emerging of this allegory resulted from what seemed to be the innate conflicts arising from a piece for live soloist and electronic sound-they have some things in common, may share their worlds to some extent, but at the same time they are fundamentally different and in some ways irreconcilable. Composing with these ideas and with certain facts of acoustics (mainly the overtone series) led to the form of the piece. In the beginning the cello and tape are in harmony over an extended drone; the tape responding to the demands of the soloist. As the piece progresses, their relationship ascends the overtone series, becoming by turns playful, indifferent, absurd, and ultimately violent. At length a kind of resolution is achieved: an uncertain and ambiguous resolution, but the only one that seemed possible. The tape was realized on a large Arp analog synthesizer at the Yale Electronic Music Studio. It is dedicated to my teacher of those days, Jacob Druckman. JS

  • Studio: Yale Electronic Music Studio (New Haven, Connecticut, USA).

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