Last modified 6 July 2015

A Crimson Path (2000-2008)
(Cello and Piano)

by Roger Reynolds

The title comes from the text for The Red Act Project, a large-scale musical undertaking I was engaged from 1996 to 2006. The title of the present work refers to a fateful path taken, a bloodstained path. The Red Act was a projected opera (unrealized) that would have woven the materials of JUSTICE and ILLUSION together.

Even in our itinerant times, the expectation and experience of journeys can consume one. I include among such travels those that are metaphoric, real … or somewhere in between. But the process of finding a pathway from one place to another is challenging and often charged with meaning. First comes an internal debate where motivations, anticipations, the desired, the unknown, the feared, are played off against one another. Often, then, one rehearses "being there", repositioning one's self in imagination, in a dream of that still distant destination. Finally, the trip itself: seemingly inevitable once one has begun, sometimes confirming, at others contradicting one's preconceptions.

A Crimson Path, for cello and piano, reflects these three stages: Dialogue, Dream, and Voyage. The first involves mutual exploration by both instruments of radically contrasted expectations. These are initially proposed as a chain of brief, aphoristic phrases, mere notions. Then each is played out more fully in a series of episodes. Dream, at first a subdued travail, gradually gains intensity as it rises, then falls back. In Voyage, the cello carries the experience to conclusion through another, more agile, assertive, and passionately directed line. Flowing slowly at times, reflecting, rushing headlong at others or mercurially darting, this path is one long arc. Well, this is not quite true. The path is designed as unitary, but there are irrational disturbances, incursions that remind us that the continuity of internal expectation is rarely tolerated by the intrusive actualities of the external world.

A Crimson Path was written for and is dedicated to Rohan de Saram. Gratitude also is due Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick and Mark Menzies for months of work-shopping and discussion that helped to bring this journey of mine to a satisfying conclusion. A Crimson Path was commissioned by Rencontres d’ensemble de violoncelles in Beauvais and by the Why Note? Festival in Dijon. It was premiered in its complete version by Christopher Roy, cello, and Pascal Berthelot, piano, on 15 November 2002.

– Roger Reynolds, Del Mar, California, June 2008