Poul Ruders - ABYSM


The title of the piece Abysm derives from the literary quotation heading the first of the 3 movements of the entire work. Not uncommonly writers put a motto – often a short quotation from famous literary pieces – on the page preceding their own work, as an “appetizer” of sorts or a spiritual and mental companion to what the reader is about to experience. That´s exactly what I had in mind, when I set out to compose this piece for BCMG. Each of the 3 movements is inspired by a short literary quotation taken out of its original contents, serving solely as a spiritual inspirator for the music that follows; in other words, it´s the beauty and profundity of the words and the many-layered associations yielded by them, which are mirrored in the music.

The 3 tone-poems – or tone-chapters, rather, are:

“What seest thou else/In the dark backward and abysm of time?” (William Shakespeare, The Tempest)

“…put your face on the burning sand and on the earth of the road, since all those who are wounded by love must have the imprint on their face, and the scar must be seen” (Farid Ud-din Altar, The Conference of the Birds)

“…The Spectre Rose in Pain/A Shadow blue obscure & dismal.” (WilliamBlake, Vala or the Four Zoas)
The piece is scored for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion, piano, violin, viola, cello, doublebass.
Poul Ruders

‘Abysm, conducted by Adès..(was) commissioned by 37 individual donors participating in the group’s remarkable Sound Investment scheme. Ruders has given them something rich and strange for their money’
The Sunday Times

First peformed by BCMG conducted by Thomas Adès at the Aldeburgh Festival on 21 June 2001.