“Plier Tree Revisited (Odin at the Spring)”

Albumleaf 136: July 3, 2018 (Bologna)

If ever a title required explanation, this is it.

Back in November 2012, I began writing an Albumleaf inspired by Mooney Warther’s wooden sculpture “Plier Tree” (pictured below).

I quickly became mired in “masterpiece mode,” completing page after page of sketches, throwing away music, starting and restarting, and so on.  At a certain point, I threw in the towel.  Rather than build upon all the work I’d done, I artfully stitched together a few passages, recorded them, and moved on. 

Since then, I’ve often thought my “Plier Tree” was a respectable failure—too bogged down in its low-bass opening and lacking a rewarding follow-through and climax.  Recently I’ve been preparing performance scores for the Albumleaves, and I came upon old number 92 and decided to dive in again.  “Plier Tree Revisited (Odin at the Spring), number 136, is the result.  At ten minutes in length, it is easily the longest Albumleaf I’ve written, and, frankly, probably the longest I will ever write.  (These pieces should be short.)

One problem I had in 2012 was a surfeit of inspiration.  Soon after beginning the piece, I hit upon the idea of portraying Warther’s plier tree as Yggdrasil, the world tree from Norse mythology.  In addition to having the roots and the trunk and the branches, I then had to have the spring.  And once I had that, I needed the birds.  And then—then, I needed Odin, who, in the quest for knowledge, drank from the spring and was attacked by the birds, losing an eye.

“Plier Tree Revisited (Odin at the Spring)” portrays all of these images and events.  But it is also inspired by personal history.  I vividly remember as a child visiting the Warther Museum in Dover, Ohio, and it’s one of the first places I took Gabriella when she came here.  I can’t help but be taken with the thematic overlap between childhood—where a person starts to learn—and Odin’s own desire for knowledge.  So in a way, this is a piece about childhood, too—both of an individual and of (for lack of a better word) mankind.

Back in 2012, I couldn’t hold it all together.  Now, I hope to have done so.

Buon ascolto!

–Granville, Ohio, July 20, 2018