Daedalus and Icarus (1999) by Stephen Blumberg
for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano
West Coast premiere

Daedalus and Icarus was inspired by a recent re-reading of the myth as translated and commented upon by Robert Graves in his excellent two-volume collection The Greek Myths. In order to escape from the labyrinth which he himself designed to hold the Minotaur but within which he was now being held prisoner, Daedalus makes a pair of wings for himself and his son Icarus, and they manage to fly away from Crete, but Icarus, against his father's warnings, flies too high and the sun melts the wax holding the feathers, causing him to plummet into the sea. This piece is, in a sense, program music, and indeed the treacherous rise and tragic fall of Icarus are musically depicted, but I also saw in the myth a symbolic representation of my own artistic dilemma and that of the artist in general. I began composing this piece without a program in mind but soon felt as if, like Daedalus, I was trapped within a labyrinth of my own invention, and the idea struck me that the dramatic framework of the myth would serve this piece well, since it would force me to escape from the gravitational pull of low pedal tones and the use of ostinato and imitation set up early in the piece. Daedalus and Icarus represent the two sides of artistic creation: invention and artifice on the one hand versus imagination and flight of fancy on the other. The artist needs to escape from the self-imposed limitations of pattern by flying in the face of logic, somehow managing to be simultaneously a circumspect planner and a heedless risk taker.

— S. B.    

[from program for November 8, 2000 concert]