On the Banks of the Phlegethon

I began composing this work in late March 2020, when it became apparent that life was going to change dramatically. From the onset, I imagined a dance in a cave of smoke flumes, not entirely hellish like the Greek Tartarus, but more ominous than the usual Underworld. However, titles like “Pluto’s Dance,” “Hades,” etc. just did not capture the connotation, and “Tartarus” (the Greek place of eternal torment) sounded too sinister.

Apparently, the Greek mythologists told about several rivers that ran through Hades, the Phelgethon being the most fiery, and the one which led to Tartarus. Thus, my imagination is of dancers doing a static and stoic Totentanz for eternity on the banks of this river.

Likewise, “On the Banks of the Phelgethon” represents my interest in restrained dynamics and emotions, mixing Minimalism with Spectralism in my pianistic and stratified manner. In some ways, it reflects the little-known genre of Goth Rock, where stratified and distorted timbres evoke dark, bleak atmospheres.

Everyone continues to experience grave hardships through this pandemic, and on the other side, it will be the first (and hopefully the only) Black Plague of the postmodern world. It will be well to remember this worldwide catastrophe as a means of perspective of what we have experienced and survived – assuming we do (at the time of writing, vaccines have yet to be distributed).

About the composer: Ian Evans Guthrie, an emerging composer, performer, researcher, and collaborator, has received the Mile High Freedom Band 2021 Commission, 1st prize for the Noosa-ISAM and Arcady Composition competitions, 2nd prize for the American Prize, a nomination for a 2020 award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and other accolades for his compositions. Many of his works have been performed publicly around the world by fEARnoMUSIC, the Northwest Symphony Orchestra, Moore Philharmonic Orchestra, VIPA, highSCORE Music Festival, Atlantic Music Festival, Charlotte New Music Festival, and others. He has served on various committees, including the Society of Composers, Inc., where he served as the Region VI Student Representative before serving as Assistant Marketer and Marketer. His most recent works include Flight for Freedomfor band, a fixed media track for dancer Ilana Goldman, tracks for various exhibitions at Venvi Art Gallery (Tallahassee, FL), and the score for the story ballet The Queen of Nori. As a pianist, Guthrie has won awards from MTNA, the Great Composer Competition, and other organizations. He also actively researches the relationship between harmony and rhythmic cells, and his paper Rhythm as Function has been featured at several past and upcoming conferences across the continent.