Don’t Look Back: Songs of Orpheus

A Solo Project by Pedro de Alcantara

Compositions, improvisations, voice, cello, piano, and whistling

“Don’t Look Back” is a cycle of compositions (a few of which have improvisatory components) inspired by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus, a supreme musician with transformative powers, falls in love with Eurydice. She dies after being bitten by a snake. Orpheus descends to the underworld, determined to retrieve her. He must deal with Cerberus, the three-headed dog; and Chiron, who ferries souls across the river of death. Then he must convince Hades and Persephone, the overlords of the underworld, to allow Eurydice to follow him back to Orpheus’s world (which may or may not be the world in which we live ourselves). Touched by the depth of his love as expressed through music, Hades and Persephone allow Orpheus to take Eurydice, but on one condition: On the path out of the underworld, Orpheus must walk ahead of Eurydice and not look back until they have reached home.

The cycle includes songs for voice and piano, voice and cello, piano solo, voice a cappella, whistling solo, and whistling and cello. Most of the songs use a quasi-shamanic, abstract language, not unlike the scat of jazz or the konnakol of India. Eurydice uses the language of birds and whistles all her lines. The musical language of several of the pieces draws from the incantatory vein of classical music of India and Persia, using repetitive patterns with the potential to induce trances in the listeners (and, of course, in the performer). The cello is tuned in scordatura (from the top down, G D G G) and strummed or plucked in ways that might recall a sitar or a sarod, or used as a percussion instrument.

The cycle can be presented in a wholly acoustic environment, or amplified. If amplified, it’d require mikes for the cello, the piano, and the singer. The performance lasts about 60 minutes, without intermission.