The 2022 Mizzou International Composers Festival is scheduled from July 25th – 30th in Columbia,Missouri. Once again, Alarm Will Sound will perform world premieres of works by the eight Resident Composers chosen for this year’s MICF. AWS recently released a recording by 2021 MICF Resident Composer Ana Paola Santillán Alcocer: “Spiraling Down the Rabbit Hole.”
Here’s how Ms. Santillán Alcocer describes her inspiration for the work — and her compositional approach to “Spiraling Down the Rabbit Hole.”
The expression “spiraling down the rabbit hole’’ originates from the 1865 classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In the opening chapter: “Down the Rabbit Hole,” Alice chases the White Rabbit into his hideaway, transporting her into this bizarre and ludicrous place called Wonderland.
Carroll’s rabbit hole has proved a popular allusion to label bizarre and irrational experiences such as a journey that transports someone into an amazingly or disturbingly surreal condition or state. On the Internet, a rabbit hole commonly denotes an enormously appealing and time-consuming topic search, where one suddenly spirals down the abyss and connects countless similar topics for hours.
“Spiraling down the Rabbit Hole,” written for 16 instruments and electronics, is the second piece of what will become a series of works of different instrumentations and mediums, all connected, directly or indirectly, with characters of Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This piece musically describes the journey of getting to bizarre and irrational places or states through spiraling down an abyss. This piece will connect with the first piece of the series, entitled “Chronic of Mad Hatter” for Pierrot Ensemble, by the repetitive use of a small six-note motif from the theme of the 1951 film Alice in Wonderland.
The sound world is made up of a 10-pitch source scale, which progressively transforms in each section of the piece through a rotational array. The same scale will be colored by the use of few quarter tones within a few instances of surreal states. The harmonic structure of the piece contains six main sections, in which each note of the main small six-note motive will be dispersed in each section to become the main harmonic center. In the same manner, the Fibonacci series was used for rhythmic and intervallic code parameters at certain parts of the piece.
In order to portray the metaphor of the recurrence abyss, the piece embeds structures through the main structure through a recursion technique, similar to the Droste effect found in art (Mise en Abyme), where an image repeatedly appears within itself. This was achieved through the electronic media, where previous sections of the piece were recorded and then embeds structures within synthesized to be used at strategic points throughout the piece.
Finally, each section in the piece employs two or three different Temporal Semiotic Units or Time Icons. These are defined as “sound forms that carry meaning through their dynamic pattern over time” (Hautbois). There are 19 Time Icons classified, falling into the categories of delimited and nondelimited segments of sound according to their morphological and semiotic type. Moreover, the piece will use the Time Icon “Rotation,” as well as the small six-note motive all throughout the piece, to denote the abyss, but mainly to connect all the sections and hence create unity.
The perception between the dichotomy of which one is the real world or which one is “Wonderland” will be decided then by the listener… A matter of focus…
“Alice started to her feet…[and] ran across the field after [the White Rabbit]…just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge. In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.” — Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Here’s a link to the AWS performance of “Spiraling Down the Rabbit Hole” recorded at the 2021 MICF:
This year you can hear AWS in-person when the MICF returns to free live performances for the first time since 2019! For those unable to attend in person, all concerts will stream live on:
Here’s a link to the complete 2022 MICF Schedule.