October in Galicia, part 1

I composed October in Galicia in 2005 for the Contemporary Music Ensemble at the CUNY Graduate Center.  In the Imaginary Timescapes performance, I will perform a new arrangement of the work for soprano and string quartet.  October in Galicia is a setting of selections from the Czech poet Ewald Murrer’s fantastical book, The Diary of Mr. Pinke, translated into English by Alicie Pist’ková.  The surreal day-to-day happenings of Mr. Pinke occur in a timeless group of villages revealed by a translator’s note to be modeled on the historical region of Galicia (now part of Poland, Ukraine, and Russia).  I found this novel-in-verse in an English language bookstore in Prague, and was captivated by the enigmatic poetry.  What do you make of it?

The first poem in the song cycle is as follows:

October 1st  

A cockcrow

in the day’s din.

A wonderful rumor reached the village, even my ears.  Apparently Mr. Fuks catches his unicorns here in our region.  He cuts off their horns and sells them as talismans.  The horn of a unicorn brings good luck (as does the unicorn).   It is also medicinal, it cures evil spells, jinxes, thin blood, aches of the head as well as those of the soul.

The nature of a unicorn is to act as a sentry.  The unicorn is the silent protector of secret knowledge.  A taciturn scholar.  A wise visionary.

Mr. Fuks sells the unicorn, whose horn he has cut off, as an unusual breed of horse.  These horses do not remain with their buyers long, however, for the bolt at the first chance.

This animal can only be caught with the help of a virgin.

Mr. Fuks has a daughter, Abigail.

— Ewald Murrer, translated by Alicie Pist’ková


(Originally published Dec. 1, 2012)


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