An Apotheosis of Archaeopteryx

  • Lejaren Hiller (1924-1994)
  • Duo
  • 1979

This piece is one of a kind. It is probably safe to say that in 1979, most composers in America had no idea what the berimbau was, let alone the gumption and the courage to write an extended piece for one. Apotheosis puts this instrument into an unlikely ensemble context, as the sparring partner of the piercing piccolo. This piece is dedicated to Lawrence Trott and Jan Williams, the two who first performed and recorded the work. It was commissioned by Trott, who requested that Hiller write a piece for an all piccolo album he was about to release entitled, For The Birds. Hiller must have chosen the Archaeopteryx (the first known bird in history – a smallish dinosaur with feathers) to reinforce the idea of the berimbau as an ancient musical instrument – an early African predecessor to the modern day guitar. Despite this reference to antiquity, the material for the berimbau is fresh and quite challenging, as it calls for pitches that extend upto an octave above the open string. To perform this work accurately, I have developed techniques which extend the instrument well beyond its traditional playing style. – Gregory Beyer

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