The University of Melbourne
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Street of the Four Winds

posted on 2023-07-14, 06:40 authored by Melody EotvosMelody Eotvos

This work is based on Robert W. Chambers short story (of the same title) from The King in Yellow, a collection of works which I spent a great deal of time from 2015‐2017 focusing on. In an interesting return to this literature, I found myself reading this particular story again while unpacking my modest library of fiction after being separated from all of my books for three months while they crossed the Pacific Ocean from Indiana USA to Melbourne.
I’ve always loved this story. It’s mostly a monologue of a painter (Severn) who is talking to a stray cat that wanders into his studio. They share a meal, take a nap, and then Severn decides it’s time to find the cat’s owner. He muses who it might be, given the clues the cat shares with him (such as its collar which is a woman’s garter), and end up fantasizing that the animal belongs to a beautiful woman he once knew, Slyvia. Severn’s descriptions are impossibly beautiful and his affection towards the mangy, stray cat is touching. The end of the story takes a powerful turn toward the uncanny however and leaves the trademark “Chambers psychological‐horror twist” very much on your mind.
Casting this story into a musical setting was a fascinating exercise. I very much wanted to maintain a monologue‐like contour to the piece as well as keep an ever‐moving line in the foreground as much as possible. This often results in moments of instrumental recitative. It is also a romantic story through‐and‐through so it was also important for me to try and capture that in terms of sounds and harmony that I used, while also leaving room for embedded ‘quirks’ or strange sounding motifs that hover over the piece like the eerie inevitability of the story itself.

Work Details

Year: 2019

Instrumentation: Flute, oboe, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass.

Duration: 11 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Commission note: Commissioned by Inventi Ensemble.  Commissioned by Inventi Ensemble as part of their "Music Always" 2019 tour.

First performance: by Inventi Ensemble


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