Tu Ne Cede Malis, Sed Contra Audentior Ito

For flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano
Manhatten, New York

Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia

Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia is a collection of three single-movement pieces for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano. Presented as a collection here, each of the three pieces is meant to stand alone, in performance and publication. Conceptually, however, the three pieces form a triptych.

In the dark economic times of the late 1970’s, I lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. For about three years, I lived in a room within an apartment of a family that had fallen on hard times. I was fortunate to find this arrangement because there were many less desirable alternatives. Through these years, I survived by copying music by hand, a laborious task that provided me with a subsistent existence. Through this pursuit, I also learned what it is like as a bill collection agency, because roughly half of the composers for whom I copied refused to pay.

By this time, I had acquired a deepened understanding of new music and I was inspired to join in its creation. The combination of flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano owes its formation to Schoenberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire.” It is referred to sometimes as a “Pierrot” ensemble. For example, the British ensemble, “The Fires of London,” had only been around for a decade, and there were several music groups in Manhattan who also followed this instrumentation. I had high hopes that if I wrote a visionary and epic series of pieces, they might be well received.

In those days, I composed with pencil and manuscript paper. The pages became filled with erasure marks, torn into pieces, and finally re-taped. With many revisions, the scores began to look like a patchwork quilt. Later, using special precision pens, I would copy the pieces on transparent vellums, then to be reproduced. (This was similar to the way architect drawings were done at that time). But for these pieces, this final stage was never reached. What existed were disheveled and uninviting piles of manuscript papers--a mess. Not only was it a mess, but also it was split into different stacks and sent to different locations. You see, I received a Fulbright to Vienna to study for a year. In the excitement and confusion of my first foreign travel, some of the sections of music were stored in separate boxes in the attic of my mother’s house in western Maryland, and some were sent to Vienna. As I returned from Vienna, some sections made it back to Manhattan while others remained in Maryland. It was not until the 2000’s that I was able to find and reassemble it using computer engraving. A wonderful byproduct was the resulting MIDI performance.

The old pencil score carried the postscript “...for the evanescence of all things.” Of all the postscripts and designations, this is one that outlives its youthful pretensions. “All things” include all of us. But it also includes all the things we love and cherish. Historically, most art, music and literature, fall into the silent cemetery, and Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia has teetered on the edge of the grave. It is my obligation to act as an advocate for this music, not only because I am the composer, but also because I perceive here a vision that needs to be heard and absorbed.

These scores are not transposed.

Past Performances of Nighttime

2015-01-11, 3:00 PMChrist and St. Stephens Church, New York, NY USAMax Lifchitz, North/South Consonance
2015-01-15, 10:00 AMNorth South Recording (N/S R 1063), New York, NY USAMax Lifchitz, North/South Consonance