Narcissus (1987) by Thea Musgrave
for flute and electronics

Narcissus wanders through the forest, observing, enjoying — unselfconscious but self-absorbed. He sees a pool of water and then, as he approaches, notices his reflection in the water. He is intrigued and then jumps back in fright. Once more he approachesā€¦ it is still there. Narcissus steps away from the pool to consider this phenomenon. Several times he approaches; the figure is always there watching him.

In the shimmering sunlight Narcissus seems to see this glorious and attractive being moving in the rippling water. He is dazzled and slowly holds out his arms. To his amazement the figure responds.

In awe and wonder Narcissus approaches closer and closer. With a sudden change of mood Narcissus dances happily and playfully, the figure echoing him. But then Narcissus begins to question anxiously the lack of any independent responseā€¦ is he being mocked? He gets more and more agitated and finally in a fury he rushes headlong into the water to grapple with the figure. The waves surge up and Narcissus is drowned.

There is a distant shimmering vision of Narcissus and his reflection. Then in the setting sun the vision disappears, the forest is empty and the pool lies undisturbed.

"And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life..."
     — Herman Melville, Moby Dick

— T. M.    

[from program for May 17, 2004 concert]