The Man With the Golden Arms (2012)

Nicole Lizée

drum kit, chamber orchestra, and six percussions

Commission: SMCQ, with support from the CCA

Premiere: September 13, 2012, L’Homme et son désir, Salle Pierre-Mercure — Centre Pierre-Péladeau (Montréal, Québec)

Inspired by groundbreaking film titlist and graphic designer Saul Bass, The Man With the Golden Arms was written for a drummer with appropriately gilded limbs and a flair for shape and form. Bass drew his cues for a new graphic language from the mathematical shapes known as Lissajous curves, which are visual depictions of complex harmonic motion within rectangular boundaries — prominently on display in the title sequences of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Bass’ groundbreaking film title sequences were studies in an aesthetic of bold lines, silhouette, stark contrast and pure colours. This concerto is musical work that seeks to capture the geometry, motion, timing, rhythm, texture, and spirit present in Bass’ art. A parallel iconography extends into the drum writing as several classic drum kit paradigms are used as starting points. What may begin as a trope is transformed into something at once familiar and alien. Steve Gadd’s clinically grooving paradiddle, The Purdie Shuffle (a studio drummer’s rite of passage), jazz as filtered through the classical soundtrack music of Elmer Bernstein (Bernstein West to Leonard’s Bernstein East ) as well as the modern athletic drumming known as ’blast beats’ are all points of departure. Filtered through the gauze of collective memory, the grooves are twisted and stretched beyond their already considerable difficulty into a model of sleek complexity, all the while being rendered with the casual virtuosity of The Man With The Golden Arms.

Nicole Lizée [ix-12]

Performance