Dis-Orientation Garden was inspired by the playful spirit and formal precision of Christian Thee’s “Orientation Gallery” at the Columbia Museum of Art. The Gallery, which greets visitors to the museum, creates the feeling of inhabiting a formal garden laced with illusion. Its four walls and ceiling are painted with latticework, ivy (both 2-D and 3-D), sculptures, benches (part painted, part real), sky, grass, trees, an iconic white monkey, candles with flickering lights and a replica of the museum’s former home in which shadows are dancing. The design is classically symmetrical, and filled with trompe d’oeil playfulness such as a “Palmetto bug” (cockroach) painted on the arm of a bench whose back is painted but whose seat and arms are real, and a mirror with painted wrought iron gates so realistic that visitors often ask about the reflected garden on the other side. On another wall, a girl peeks in from behind a large wooden door, surprised to have discovered this secret garden!
The music reflects formality and mirroring with quickly alternating piano chords, and symmetrical tonal choices. The tritone or augmented 4th, which evenly divides the octave, and whole tone scales, also perfectly symmetrical, are unifying elements. Quick shifts of mood and meter relate to Thee’s playfulness, and a lyrical “secret garden” theme peeks in and out of the texture. Violin harmonics, a ricochet (bouncing the violin bow), trills, tremolos, pizzicato, and glissandi all contribute to a quirky and whimsical spirit; the piece ends with an accelerated bounce.
Dis-Orientation Garden is one in a series of three compositions for violin and piano titled “Carolina Gallery,” each responding to a work of art by an artist with South Carolina ties. The other two artists are Philip Mullen, whose painting “Women in the Country,” is on permanent display at the Koger Center for the Arts at the University of South Carolina, and Alex Powers, whose “Perpetuate Slavery Or” is in the permanent collection of the Columbia Museum of Art. The compositions are commissioned by William Terwilliger for the Opus Two Duo, William Terwiliger, violin and Andrew Cooperstock, piano, and funded by the Office of the Provost at the University of South Carolina.
Violin bowings and fingerings suggested by William Terwilliger.
Information about Christian Thee may be found at his website, http://christianthee.com, and about Opus Two at www.opustwo.org.