Mikel Kuehn - Works

Fünf Parabeln (1994), for soprano voice and chamber ensemble (Ensemble 21 with Deborah Norin-Kuehn, soprano; Peter Jarvis, conductor).  Based on texts by Franz Kafka.

Fünf Parabeln (1993) for flute (alto/bass), clarinet (bass), violin, cello, piano, and soprano voice. Performed by Ensemble 21 (Deborah Norin-Kuehn, soprano; Peter Jarvis, cond.) live at Merkin Hall, New York City, February 1994.

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Program Note

Fünf Parabeln was commissioned by New York City's contemporary music group, Ensemble 21. Composed in the fall of 1993, it was premiered in February of 1994 at Merkin Recital Hall in New York with soprano Deborah Norin-Kuehn. Scored for flute (doubling on alto and bass flutes), clarinet (doubling on bass clarinet), violin, cello, piano, and soprano, Fünf Parabeln centers on five surrealistic parables by Franz Kafka (1883-1924). Brief instrumental interludes separate each parable. The musical realization of the five parables is closely tied with Kafka's treatment and stupefaction of "dream" versus "reality." In many instances the soprano alternates between sung and spoken material to identify with this aspect, partitioning narration from description. In several areas of the work, "dreamlike" material is represented by quarter-tone embellishments and instrumental doublings. This material fades and resurfaces across the fabric of the work until it is coupled with the tongue-stops (low, thrusting sounds) of the bass-flute, representing the repulsive Green Dragon. At the beginning of the work, the pitch material is extravagantly embellished and ornamented (on the structural level) creating uneven and jagged instrumental textures. As the work progresses, this material is continually recycled and honed down until, in the final parable, it exists in its simplest and most delicate representation, resulting in a fairly even instrumental texture. Aside from their Jungian symbolism, Kafka’s parables embody multifarious moral meanings making them suitable for perpetual reading and interpretation.

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