Lois V Vierk
The demon star is Algol in the constellation Perseus. Algol (literally "the demon's head") was observed for over a century to periodically get bright, then suddenly dim, but no one knew why. It wasn't until 1782 that the astronomer John Goodricke offered the explanation that Algol is really a pair of stars orbiting around a common center. Approximately every 69 hours the dimmer star passes in front of the brighter star, partially blocking its light, to someone watching on earth. About 100 years later Goodricke's explanation was confirmed by more sophisticated scientific observation. He had made the first identification of an "eclipsing binary" star. Astronomers now know of over 50 eclipsing binaries. This is the imagery that inspired my piece Demon Star.
This work sometimes brings one or the other of the instruments to the foreground, eclipsing the other, as it were, contrasting their sounds. At other times it blends and intertwines the instruments to form new timbres. In places I've asked the two players to make the cello sound more like a marimba and the marimba more like a cello--no easy task! I've asked them to be extremely sensitive to attacks of notes, to the sound envelopes, to the way in which sounds are accented, articulated or sustained, to the way dynamics are played, and so on. Throughout the piece, dynamic patterns, pitch slides in the cello, and harmonic and rhythmic materials are constantly being developed. As the work progresses, it changes from highly energetic, rhythmic, dynamic music, to a gentler, lyrical ending.
Recording is by:
Theodore Mook, cello
Matthew Gold, marimba
New World Records 80766 "Lois V Vierk: Words Fail Me"