Arlene Elizabeth


for symphony orchestra

duration: 11 minutes

Aquilo (ah-kwee-lo) is a classical name for the Northeast wind as designated by the Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius in his Ten Books on Architecture. In that seminal work, which influenced architects and artists from the first century to the Renaissance, Vitruvius expounds upon the classical concepts of symmetry, aesthetics and proportion in architecture as well as myriad related aspects of nature and society.

In a chapter from Ten Books on Architecture on the planning of cities, the importance of wind currents in the health and well-being of city inhabitants is discussed, as well as Vitruvius's curious ideas on the nature of winds and weather. Vitruvius writes of the ancient theory of wind beginning from heat and moisture, stating that this is "scientifically proven" by experiments with aeoliphiles. These were bronze spheres filled with water through a tiny opening. When the aeoliphile was heated, a rush of steam would escape, convincing the ancients that wind must have had similar origins. Vitruvius defends this theory but elaborates upon it with his own idea that there are eight main winds which flow over the wide expanse of a disc-shaped earth. In differing from the Greeks, who believed that there were only four (our familiar North, South, East and West) Vitruvius is able to chart the wind currents of a new city (as seen on the cover page) with assurances to the reader that this plan will allow for the best, most healthful environment for future inhabitants.

Aquilo explores the Vitruvian description of experiments with aeoliphiles with interactive musical representations of fire and water mixing to create a rush of air. This rush of air is the northeast wind of Aquilo, heard as a melodic line which develops within a large aural space. It is later joined by three others and the four gather momentum until there is a powerful "directional shift" which introduces four new melodic lines, all accumulating energy and complexity as they move in space. After the eight melodic "winds" have made their individual characters "felt", the original melody returns. Aquilo travels until the environment breaks it down to its elemental components, returning us to the original spark of its creation.

Aquilo for orchestra was first performed as part of the American Composers Orchestra's Whitaker New Music Reading Sessions, conducted by Paul Lustig Dunkel; Masonic Hall, New York City, June 4th 1999.

Arlene Elizabeth Sierra was born in Miami, Florida, USA in 1970 and began her musical studies at the piano at the age of five. She had her first composition lessons at the Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music, where she earned a B. Mus. in Electronic Music and B. A. in East Asian Studies. Her education continued at the Yale School of Music where she earned a Masters degree in Composition and concluded at the University of Michigan, where she received a Doctorate in Composition in 1999. She studied with Jacob Druckman, Martin Bresnick and William Albright, among others.

Ms. Sierra has received awards from ASCAP and the American Music Center as well as numerous fellowships and residencies including a prestigious MacDowell Colony Fellowship. Her works have been performed at the Aspen Music Festival, the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival, the Dartington International Festival, the Britten-Pears School, and the Palais de Fontainebleau, France, as well as in London, Berlin, New York , Boston and Minneapolis. Performing ensembles have included the American Composers Orchestra, the Plymouth Orchestra of Minneapolis, and the Schubert Ensemble of London.

Future projects include an opera workshop with the English National Opera Studio and a choral commission as part of a joint scheme with spnm, PRS and NFMS, for performances in 2001.

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