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Richard Festinger (Estados Unidos) - Icarus in Flight


Composer Richard Festinger has garnered international recognition for his extensive catalogue of vocal and instrumental compositions. Writing for the Tanglewood Music Festival, Frank J. Oteri describes Festinger’s music as “notable for its combination of propulsive energy with an impeccable sense of poise and balance,” and WQXR Radio in New York has dubbed him “an American master.” Festinger is a professor emeritus of San Francisco State University. He received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in composition from the University of California, Berkeley, and in 1985 co-founded the acclaimed San Francisco based modern music ensemble Earplay. Festinger’s music is published by C.F. Peters Corp. and Wildcat Canyon Music Press. His works have been recorded for the Naxos, Bridge, CRI, Centaur, and CRS labels. The recipient of numerous major awards and commissions, he has been honored with both the Walter Hinrichsen Award and an Academy Recording Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Icarus in Flight

Icarus in Flight In modeling the earth1s changing climate, my new quartet, Icarus in Flight, uses historical data on population growth, carbon emissions and land-use transformation, during the period 1880 projected out to 2080, to control certain aspects of the music.

-  Population growth controls the average density of musical events over time, increasing, in the worst case, by a factor of 9. In this context, density means the number of musical events in a given time period (if more than one instrument initiates an event at the same time it is still considered one event).

-  Carbon emissions control the frequency range of the music, from lowest to highest pitch, increasing gradually from a perfect fifth in the middle register to a span of 6.25 octaves, before collapsing to almost nothing.

-  With respect to land-use, an increase from 13% to 43% of the earth1s land surface devoted to human use (i.e. habitation, agriculture and grazing) is represented by the increasing proportion of music that is played with specialized timbres (tone colors), including mainly pizzicato, tremolo bowing, and bowing close to the bridge (producing a fragile timbre characterized by a greater proportion of high frequency partials).

The era of international cooperation on climate change begins circa 1979. If one listens closely one can hear fleeting moments of repose on the interval of a major 3rd marking the dates of international meetings.

Icarus in Flight is comprised of three large sections played without pause: the first representing the years 1880 to 1945, when the data are growing slowly; the second from 1945 to 2015 when growth accelerates exponentially; and the third from 2015 to 2080. In the last section, our future, the controlling data alternate between the best and worst case future scenarios (i.e., representative climate pathways 2.6 and 8.5) based on the models developed by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific body under the auspices of the United Nations. Each year occupies eight seconds of musical time, the entire piece lasting about 27 minutes.

The title of my new quartet offers a metaphor for the trajectory of climate change. Imprisoned by King Minos on the isle of Crete, the brilliant Athenian craftsman Daedalus fashioned wings of feathers fixed with wax for himself and his son Icarus, so to escape from the isle by flight. Daedalus warned his son against flight too low or too high, to avoid both the ladening dampness of the sea and the wax-melting heat of the sun. Elated by the thrill of flight, Icarus ignored his father1s admonitions, venturing high into an environment too warm to sustain him.

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