ANDREW WAGGONER: ELLE S'ENFUIT
for viola and piano (2008)
World Premiere: Melia Watras, viola; Kimberly Russ, piano; October 28, 2008, Meany Theater, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Elle s’enfuit (She Flees) was composed in the spring of 2008 for Melia Watras, who had asked for something showy, wild, over the top. The title is both a joke (Melia never flees from anything, much less a piece like this) and an attempt to get down to the roots of fugue: the word, of course, means “flight”, with lots of ancillary connotations, most of them culturally formed, like “hunt”, and “chase”; at the same time, early fugues grew out of the genre known as ricercare, or “research”, or just “search”. Early composers of fugue will clearly looking for something, whether animal, vegetable or metaphysical. Add to all this the psychotic state known as fugue (the fleeing from oneself) and the word becomes a veritable Rohrshach test. Elle s’enfuit is for me, in some way or another, reflective of all the above. The title is in French only to distance most of us from our immediate associations with fugue as a genre (in France perhaps we’ll just call it She Flees). The piece is a double-fugue in which both subjects are themselves polyphonic, acting more as blocks of sound than as distinct melodic motives. There’s a debt to Lutoslawski here, and his masterful Preludes and Fugue; he created a world of sinewy, shifting energies, of plaintive voices. I wanted Elle s’enfuit to be more a matter of irresistible force, of something pushing, desperately, to get somewhere, anywhere.