Arid Heat from Memories of Corsica

by paulgibby

This from Cincinnati composer, Rick Sowash:

Hello —

Have you ever thirsted beyond the edge of agony?  I have, once.

Could such an experience be expressed musically?

Could music capture the accompanying elements:  the silence, the stillness, the heat?

Seemingly not.

Silence?  By definition, music must be audible.  It can be very soft, sure.  There can be brief rests between notes, phrases, movements.  But silent?  No.

Stillness?  By definition, music must move.  We are quickly bored by a changeless chord.

Heat?  By definition, music reaches us through our ears, unaffected by Fahrenheit or the frequency of fluid intake.

Yet these were precisely what I wanted to express in the first movement of my Trio #3 for violin, clarinet and piano, “Memories of Corsica.”

You see, the Verdehr Trio, performers world-wide, had asked me write a piece, suggesting that I seek inspiration from exotic places I have visited.

Exotic?  Corsica!  The scrubby landscape, the sleepy stone villages, the crumbling watchtowers scanning the azure Mediterranean, the pristine beaches, the chestnut forests, the strong wines and cheeses, the spicy salads topped with eggs fried in olive oil, larded with the bacon of wild boars.

I remembered the intense, dry heat and my desperate thirst when, foolhardy, I hiked out from Corté, the capital city, into the wild, with a half-bottle of water.  I knew better, but Corsica is a strange, timeless, enchanting place; Corsican bandits were legendary; it’s a place where the banditry of one’s usual good sense is a possibility.

My water gone, I ought to have turned back.  But the landscape was thrilling and mysterious, like the Sonoran deserts of Arizona; my curiosity drew me around the bend, around the next, then the next.

Suddenly I felt unwell.  A dizzy, ringing head.  A sandy, swollen tongue.  I turned around.  There was Corté, further off than I expected.  I started back but my knees weakened.  I had to sit down.

I was tiny and vulnerable, a speck of humanity, very hot and very dry, my fundament plumped on one small rock amid ranges of jagged mountains, sawtoothed against a depthless sky.

Nature?  Beautiful, harsh … and indifferent.  Our predicaments concern her not.

Abandon me there for a few minutes, seated on a hot rock in the sun-baked Corsican wilderness, while you listen to the Verdehr Trio performing the first movement of my Memories of Corsica, subtitled “Arid Heat.”

Be warned:  the music begins VERY quietly.  If your hearing, like mine, is fading, you may not hear any music for several seconds.  Be patient.  The violin and clarinet are melting in and out of one another, quietly intoning a middle C, back and forth between them.  That’s the ceaseless heat of the sun.  Then you’ll hear the pianist playing, in both hands, two octaves apart, a hollow, desolate melody, slow but rising and falling in sharp jerks.  That’s the zig-zagged outline of the moveless mountains.  The ideas intertwine ….

Click here to hear the pianist.

To see a PDF of the score, click here.

I’d love to know what you think about this music; reply if you’re inclined.  But please don’t feel that you are expected to reply.  I’m just glad you let me share my work in this way.

As always, feel free to forward this message to friends who might enjoy it.

Anyone can be on my little list of recipients for these mpFrees (as I call these musical emails).  To sign up, people should email me at, sending just one word:  “Yes.”   I’ll know what it means.   To unsubscribe, reply “unsubscribe.”

Rick Sowash
Cincinnati, OH
August 21, 2016