This work was written as a response to the senseless destruction and violence currently endured by so many on our planet.
As Smith began channeling her energies into the work, she was drawn to a late 13th century journey through hell: the catalogue of human evil that is Dante’s Inferno. Whilst working on the piece, she discovered that her brother, the artist Peter Smith, was concurrently preparing an exhibition of works based on Inferno. As Peter documented each stage of his progress, he sent images to her who improvised an initial reaction, and then used this response as the basis for further development.
In writing Inferno, the first part of Dante’s trilogy The Divine Comedy, Dante was deeply influenced by the politics of his day, of which a major issue was the struggle for power between church and state. Dante scatters corrupt political and religious figures with whom he disagrees throughout his vision of hell, meting out punishment accordingly. The human issues that Dante was concerned with are the same ones that we still struggle with today.
Below are the parts of Dante’s work associated with the sound and images of Inferno for Clarinet and Chamber Ensemble.
I …a dark wilderness… The beginning of a journey, the idea that one can choose the ‘right road’, in Dante’s world a virtuous life that leads to God.
II Ciacco: Ciacco the glutton, who endlessly pursued pleasure in life, now lives in a world that rains excrement.
III …where all the boiling spirits shriek and scream… Violence, to kill, rape, maim and pillage. The ‘created’ world is turned into an arena of destruction.
IV …eyes shed… Sorcerers and false prophets have their heads screwed on backwards so they can only see what has gone behind them.
V Curlybeard, Dogscratcher and tusky Swinetooth: The demons that guard the brigands and politicians of the day. Oboe, clarinet, and bassoon are the musical equivalents of these demons.
VI …tears hardened to glass…Betrayal, all consuming hatred, souls lie on their backs in a frozen lake with only their faces protruding through the ice, they are not allowed the luxury of tears.
Margery Smith is a Sydney-based performer, composer and improviser. She has studied clarinet and saxophone at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, as well as in Europe and the USA. Smith has performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Australia Ensemble and the Canberra Wind soloists. Recently, she has written for Orchestra Victoria, Continuum Sax, and PACT Youth Theatre. Her freelance career also incorporates time spent lecturing at University of Newcastle Conservatorium of Music, and various projects involving the use of improvisation and collaboration in educational and community contexts.