Caryatids

Program Notes

"Once as a boy I asked someone if a statue I stared at Was alive. They said no, but they were wrong. It was."

Excerpt from My Father “The T.E. Lawrence Poems” collection ~ Gwendolyn MacEwan (1941-87)

I’ve always been fascinated with rocks and stones and sculpture—their strength, their beauty and their magic. In Detroit, there are twelve caryatids on the baroque Book Tower. A caryatid is a sculpted female figure that also serves as a column or a supportive architectural element. A traditional caryatid is holding the roof with her head or her arms. As support and sculpture, the caryatids’ function intersects both art and architecture.

The name caryatid is derived from the Greek word, karyatides, referring to the maidens of Karyai. Karyai was an ancient Peloponnesian town with a temple devoted to Artemis Karyatis. In Greek mythology, Artemis was the goddess of wild animals, the hunt, vegetation, of chastity, childbirth, and a patron of girls and young women. To honor Artemis Peloponnesian women would often perform folk dances with baskets of plants on their heads.

The piece follows the architecture of a building with eight sections representing the four corners and four walls. Architecturally the piece has four structural (or column) sections (I’ve called Fanfare, Midfares, and Postfare). They represent the strength and columnar nature of caryatids. Each of the twelve caryatids is represented by a chord. The series of chords finally appears in order at the end of the work but each chord is spread between the orchestral instruments, much like light at different times of the day is refracted and creates different shadows.

Between these chordal (fanfare-like) sections, are a series of Baroque-like dances, or my interpretation of a bourrée, a gigue, and a sarabande.

There have been so many strong, influential and powerful women from Detroit who have helped shape and support not only the local but also the national and international fabrics of our society (cultural, political and scientific) that writing a work inspired by them felt very appropriate.

I’ve dedicated this work to the strongest and most wonderful woman in my life, my mother Elvyra Krausas.

Commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for the 10th Annual Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award for Female Composers

Premiere May 8, 2021
Orchestra Hall Jader Bignamini, Music Director

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Premiere:
May 8, 2021