Kyle Gann: Sang Plato's Ghost (2013)

for flute, oboe, percussion, harp, accordion, viola, and double bass

Sang Plato's Ghost was written at the request of my former student Ben Richter for his group, the Ghost Ensemble. Given the chance to write for accordion, I first imagined a tango, then put that tango in 5/4, and then started to write clouds of tango allusions on either side of it. The title is taken from W.B. Yeats's poem What Then? -

'The work is done,' grown old he thought,
'According to my boyish plan;
Let the fools rage, I swerved in naught,
Something to perfection brought';
But louder sang that ghost, 'What then?'

which may have more to do with the mood in which I wrote the piece than the piece itself.

The piece follows a paradigm I invented for myself that I call "relenting minimalism." That is, the bulk of the piece is rather austerely static, made up of clouds of motives going out of phase with each other, but after it exhausts its various possibilities the music relents and begins to release a tune that seemed to have been implicit all along. In this case, the elements of the tango are threaded through the texture from the beginning, and emerge after they've seemingly broken into consciousness. An apparent disjunction between modernist strangeness and tuneful "normalcy" is thereby mediated.

- Kyle Gann

Duration: 11 minutes

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