Atlantis is another very strongly programmed piece, in three parts. Very naturally, it starts with the sea, land comes up over the sea, people go onto the land, settle it, volcanic eruptions destroy the island, and so we go back to the sea. Actually, there is an island in Greece called Santorini (or in Greek, Thera) which blew its stack around 1690 BC, destroying two-thirds of the island and creating tidal waves that destroyed much of the Mediterranean, including Crete and parts of Egypt. It may have had quite a big impact on history.
I walked into this ancient city of Thera (they had just reclaimed it from the lava in which it was embedded). You walk this road in pre-Minoan culture, and it's like a Long Island suburb in the Flintstones. There are mansions which had incredible art work, most of which you can see in Athens, since it's been peeled off the walls. Then, if you had to flush something, you'd throw it out the window and it would roll into the sewer.
The islanders had huge jars for food, water and wine. They had everything. The art work indicates that they were well traveled. This may be the original Atlantis. In my piece, five shell players signify the importance of the sea, conveniently. Shells produce very powerful sounds and are used, for example, in the middle of the Pacific for long distance announcements.
Stretching a point, the tuba might be thought of as a giant shell. It's a giant conical tube and by adding the quartertone valve on it, we've opened it up to a myriad of new possibilities of pitch. And we also used very special chimes recovered from an old Brooklyn movie theater. I had kept track of them since I was 15 and went and got them when I was 25. The manager said to go ahead and take them. They are Pythagorean-tuned, pure fifth-tuned, and have a very death-knell quality to them. What could be better, I thought, then to use these chimes to signal the imminent earthquake and final destruction of Atlantis.
of the physical performance gets quite wild, with a cadenza where
the bell of the tuba is placed on the floor, using the floor as
a kind of reflecting plane for the sound. It's harder to
describe than it is to listen to, and quite undignified to record.
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