Checking in with Cody: Narrative

Can you tell us about the concept of narrative in Lux Arcana?

Narratives in my music are each unique in how they present themselves to me. Sometimes I know the narrative before I write a note of a piece. In other works, the narrative strikes me when I am in the middle of composing a piece. Most rarely, but happens to be the case with this work, I am completely unaware of the narrative taking shape until after completing a piece. This time the narrative was revealed to me only by observing the piece as a whole.

In composing Lux Arcana, I found that I had to become more task-oriented, more of an artisan, focusing on the notes themselves. Nothing extra-musical ended up having an influence on the inception and composition of this piece. However, this piece does very much have its own narrative that is told through the development of the musical materials—their transformation and the transforming environment is the story.

The concertino begins with a passacaglia, a piece based on a repeating melody, usually a bass line. The melody in my passacaglia is a hybrid of the two melodies that the students composed. Each time it repeats, the music surrounding it changes, develops, and varies. This gives the first movement a grand, unfolding, dramatic opening that builds in intensity and tension.

The second movement (a toccata) bursts out of the passacaglia, as if turning a page in a novel and learning of new characters central to the story. But in this piece, even these new characters carry with them traits of the previous movement’s music. These traits are primarily based on the students’ melodic and rhythmic contributions.

The first movement is a prologue to the second, in which the musical ideas born from the passacaglia theme interact and develop, coming to fruition and fulfilling their potential. A climax is reached when the passacaglia returns underneath one of these new ideas from the second movement, which brings about a dramatic and fiery conclusion where the motives of the second movement confidently have the last word.

In a way, the narrative of Lux Arcana is a coming-of-age, in which the first movement represents an arcane wisdom that is both a source of inspiration and a point of departure for the second movement, which grows, develops, and attains its own identity.