Transparent Things: In Memoriam V. N.

for Orchestra

Steven Stucky

Performing Ensemble: Orchestra
Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

As a reader I have long felt drawn to the wonderful Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov: to his mirror-like style, his sly deceits, his rich textures of allusion and illusion. As a composer I am in sympathy with his views of art: that style and substance are inseparable and style is everything; that a work of art must enchant, creating its own world, with its own logic, its own conventions, its own coincidences; that real art is recognizable by the tingle it evokes in the spine.

When Nabokov died in July 1977, I decided to write something in his memory, and I borrowed the title of his 1972 novel Transparent Things because I liked the sound of it and because it matched, in a certain way, the kind of bright, clear sound I wanted the music to have. (Otherwise, though, the piece is not “about” Nabokov; its content is purely musical.) Sketches for the new work (originally intended for wind ensemble) lay unused until 1980, when the Lawrence University Symphony orchestra asked me to write them a new piece. I conducted the first performance at Lawrence in May 1980.

Listeners may detect four main sections in the flow of the music. A slow introduction features a solo for alto flute and a duet for muted trumpets, at the same time unfolding the main harmony of the piece. Next comes a series of four brief, colorful episodes for various groups in the orchestra: cackling woodwinds, then obstreparous basses and horns, next piccolos and xylophone shrieking like some sort of wild birds, finally all the bell-like percussion instruments. A fast build-up for the whole orchestra leads to the work’s climax, a chorale-like passage for the brass on the same harmony that opened the work. A slow coda combines solos for bassoon, oboe, and piccolo with the strings’ final evolution of the basic harmony into its most ‘transparent’ possible form.”
—Steven Stucky

Available on Rental

Scores & Parts

Transparent Things - Full Score - Study
Transparent Things - Full Score - Large

Additional Information

Composition Date 1980
Duration 9:00
Orchestration 3(2Picc. Alto) 2 2 2 - 4 3 3 1; 3Perc. Pno. Cel. Str.
Premiere 11th May 1980. Lawrence University Symphony Orchestra, Steven Stucky, conductor, Appleton, WI

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