Musical Scores

 

for


Ellis Island/Angel Island: A Vision of the American Immigrants

 

. . . a work in progress . . .

 

 

© 1978–2014 Cristiano M.L. Forster
All rights reserved.

 

www.chrysalis-foundation.org

  

 

Reflections

 

     Ellis Island/Angel Island: A Vision of the American Immigrants is a work in progress scored for eight original acoustic instruments and a small ensemble of dancers. All musicians and dancers will be present on stage throughout the performances. The interplay and synchronicity between musicians and dancers is crucial because Ellis Island/Angel Island is a narrative dance composition that tells the story of immigration from the perspective of those who came to America, and of those left behind.

 

     This composition will be performed on an ensemble of original acoustic instruments that I built during the years 1976–1989, and 1995. The instruments belong to four categories. Stringed instruments: Chrysalis, Harmonic/Melodic Canon, Bass Canon, and Just Keys; percussion instruments: Diamond Marimba and Bass Marimba; friction instrument: Glassdance; and wind instrument: Simple Flute. (Critical parts of many of these instruments were redesigned and rebuilt during the years 2000–2011.)

 

     I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1948, and immigrated to Berlin, Germany, in 1954; I then immigrated to New York City in 1958. Having endured two intercontinental immigrations by the age of ten, Ellis Island/Angel Island is a work based on my personal experiences, and on my research of historical texts, letters, and journals.

 

     For the Just Keys piano scores below, please note the nonlinear key signatures, or nonstandard key signatures, which indicate that these scores are tablature scores. As such, trained musicians cannot read these scores, or hear the harmonies and melodies in their inner ears, without knowledge of how I retuned this instrument. Similarly, all other scores are also tablature scores. However, because I used familiar Western music notation, skilled musicians should have minimal difficulties learning how to interpret the scores.

 

-Cris Forster

 

     For information on Cris Forster’s musical score Song of Myself: Intoned Poems of Walt Whitman, please see About Us > How to Support This Work.

 

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I. Good-Bye

 

     The deep roar of an ocean liner fills the concert hall. In the bass section of the Just Keys piano, the first interval — repeated four times — simulates a clock counting down.

 

     Immigrants, gathered in small family groups, begin saying good-bye for the last time. Long embraces become slowly swaying waltz-like dances. Some who will be left behind hold on. But as the immigrants begin filing up a ramp center stage, all must eventually let go.

 

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II. Farewell

 

     As the ship begins to move, sad and tearful faces are transformed. Expressions of courage and selflessness are exchanged in silence. A few continue to run along the side of the ship until the end of the dock.

 

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III. Far Away

 

     As the last strips of land begin to disappear at the horizon, the vast emptiness of the ocean brings the meaning of good-bye and farewell to full consciousness. The immigrants stand motionless at the deck rails staring into the watery abyss. Suddenly, a storm-like exuberance resounds through the crowds on deck, and they begin to dance like waves on the surface of the sea. Eventually, all are overcome by hopefulness, and the promises of an unknown land, from which there will be no return.

 

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IV. The Harbor

 

     The deep roar of an ocean liner returns. The immigrants, dressed in salty overcoats, come down a ramp center stage; they are overwhelmed by myriad emotions.

 

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V. In the Park

 

     In a moonlit park, two men, wrapped in moving blankets, enter stage left; they are shivering and emaciated. In a trancelike state, they slowly move toward a garbage can dimly illuminated center stage. While one is eager for any sustenance, the other cannot bear the thought. A struggle ensues in which the first man convinces the second man to overcome his humiliation. Both men eat, and in a state of exhaustion, spread out their blankets and go to sleep.

 

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VI. The Letter

 

     This scene takes place in a simple courtyard where a mother is tending a small garden. Three children enter; they are running and laughing because one of them is waving a letter in the air. The mother joins the happy chase and finally succeeds in grabbing the letter. She reads the first page to her children, who are delighted to hear from their father; they then continue playing and leave the stage. She turns the letter over and reads her husband’s expressions of love and loneliness. The news turns bad and prospects for reunification begin to fade. The mother realizes that she and the children must survive alone.

 

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VII. Lullaby

 

     This composition is dedicated to all parents who care for their children on the open road.

 

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VIII. Autumn Day

 

This composition is dedicated to all homeless exiles and refugees.

 

 

Autumn Day

 

Lord: the time has come. It was a grand summer.

Rest your shadow now upon the sundials,

and unleash the winds over the open fields.

 

Compel the final fruits to fill;

grant them two more southern days,

urge them on to their perfection, and drive

the remaining sweetness into the heavy wine.

 

Whoever has no house now, will not build one.

Whoever is alone now, will stay alone,

will wait up, read, write long letters,

and will restlessly wander – back and forth –

along tree-lines avenues, with the scattered and drifting leaves.

 

Herbsttag, by Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Translated by Cristiano Forster

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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IX. Dream Time

 

     This dance progresses backwards in time: from old age, to middle age, to youth. An old man wearing a generic white mask and costume enters the stage. As the dance progresses, he removes a series of masks and costumes and, thereby, reveals the youthful inner heart of his cultural identity. Clearly, his process of assimilation has failed.

 

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