What the Thunder Said for Violoncello and Orchestra (2021)

What the Thunder Said

for Violoncello and Orchestra (The 69th Otaka Prize, awarded by the NHK Symphony Orchestra)
Cello solo, – – Tp. – 2 Perc.: [I. Bass drum, 4 Bg., Snare drum, Glock., Cp., Thunder sheet, 2 Ps., Siren, Acme siren, Metal-chimes – II. Bass drum, 2 Snare drum, Vibra slap, Tt., Ps., Vibr., Bell tree, Acme siren] – Ar. – A.:

Commissioned by Westdeutscher Rundfunk
Dedicated to Oren Shevlin
Cello solo : Oren Shevlin
WDR Sinfonieorchester
Conductor : Cristian Măcelaru
Duration : approx. 7 minutes 30 Seconds

I have often felt that layers of invisible borders are stretched around us, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

For me this feeling conjures up an image of dry cracked earth devastated by drought. A lack of water increases the cracks, and fragments the earth.

We, the human beings, are social creatures. We long for both individuality and a sense of belonging.

"What the Thunder Said" is the final section of  "The Waste Land" by T.S Eliot which was written 100 years ago. The poem reflects our current situation in the world such as the pandemic,  climate disaster, various racial, religious, and economic divisions.

Eliot wrote this poem in the aftermath of the Spanish Flu and the first world war.

Throughout the whole poem, the image of water is central. Water can be a symbol of a revealing or of fertility but it can cause disaster if it floods too much. The poem describes about a lack of water ; 

A man walks through dry, almost dying land. There is only rock but no water. He (or she) desires water so strongly and imagines it but it is only an illusion...then at the end, there is thunder. Signs of rain appear bringing a glimmer of hope.

Inspired by this poem, in my piece "What the Thunder Said", I represented the motives in the poem such as rock, dryness, illusional water drop, humidity and thunder as musical materials.

The piece begins with a pizzicato and fragmental sounding Cello solo which reminded me of cracked earth.

Using those materials, I attempted to depict the progressive evolution of how broken fragments , which appear to be almost dying, actually begin to rejuvenate and are reborn illustrating how an isolated highly unbalanced state can be resolved and reformed.

In the piece, the  soloist is treated as a symbol of a broken fragment, individual, and isolated. The orchestral musicians are treated as a symbol for solidarity, coexistence and rebirth. And between these poles, groups of instruments play a role of localization, and as an aggregate of the broken fragments.

During the period of composing this piece, the situation of the world has constantly changed. The natural disasters, the crisis and many conflicts have occurred  all over the world.

We all need water.

"What the Thunder Said" was commissioned by Westdeutscher Rundfunk and written for its concert series of "Miniaturen der Zeit".

The piece is dedicated to Oren Shevlin.

(In Cologne, Summer 2021, Malika Kishino)