Program Notes for Seven Deadly Sins

The traditional vices (I, Anger, II, Greed, III, Gluttony IV, Sloth V, Lust VI, Envy VII, Pride) as enumerated by Dante in Purgatorio can really be thought about in two different ways: they can either be considered mortal trangressions which corrupt the perfection of ideal human nature or they can be thought of as extensions of that nature that represent typical human extreme behavior. In the Catholic Church of old, these transgressions would lead to eternal damnation and could only be forgiven by confesssion. However, everyone knows that all people dip into these feelings from time to time, and they have a character defining role. In creating my own musical Seven Deadly Sins I have drawn upon this dichotomy as well as making reference to external reactions to these altered emotional states. For example in the first piece, “Anger,” the music is cinematically descriptive of the chaotic abandon associated with rage, but it is also characteristic of the absence of logic: thereby the violently shifting thematic bits that seem to go their own way. Naughty and nice seem to occupy the same bed. “Greed,” the second piece conjures up the sleazy and seductive atmosphere of a rundown cafe or bordello, which both repels and invites with a kind of grasping desperation. Similarly, the succession of violin glissandos in III, “Gluttony,” are more an observation of the behavior of a person who has become crapulous from overeating. At one point there is an oblique reference to the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony which is not so much a knock at the door by fate as a kind of leaning against it in woozy delirium. The passacaglia structure of IV, “Sloth” has a lumbering, relentless forward motion that is both pointless and inevitable. In creating the dramatic pallette for the set, I try to remake the familiar into the alienated and vice versa. The ballad the begins V, “ Lust” quickly takes on the vulgarity that a lustful display would evoke. The childish envy eliciting taunting jingle (sol, sol, mi, la, sol, mi) becomes a contrapuntal cacophony, while the hapless Yankee Doodle that appears in VII, “Pride,” is turned into a vainglorous and quixotic buffoon, not entirely unsympathetic. The earlier faux Mozartian material in that movement transforms self confidence into pomposity. Contrary to the Church of Old, I do not offer a competing list of virtues . Perhaps in the modern world, morality is not so black and white. Brecht and Weill’s 1933 ballet of the same name has been a favorite piece of mine, and it’s use of humor influenced my own dramatic approach. Seven Deadly Sins was written for the outstanding and versatile violinist, Jessica Mathaes.