for alto flute, bass flute, clarinet, string trio, 2 Celtic harps, tape (2018-20)



Siro’s Garden, performed by Explore Ensemble, was released on the Another Timbre label, (James Weeks: Summer, at174), in May 2021


Siro’s Garden is an imaginary recreation of the historical garden of the Epicurean philosopher and teacher Siro in Naples, where Virgil is said to have studied as a young man. It is based on 12 lines from the Georgics (II.475-486) in which Virgil directs a prayer to the Muses to teach him understanding of the world (in the scientific, Lucretian sense); but that if it is not in his nature to understand it intellectually, that he may nevertheless love it (to apprehend nature in a directly sensual and emotional way).

In the piece, instrumentalists are spread around the stage, singly or in groups of two, as if inhabiting a garden, contemplating, reading, or writing poetry: their music, always very soft, is the sound of their inner thoughts. The three duos each read through the passage from Virgil, one word at a time (which is spoken aloud at the beginning of each phrase). The harps have freer passages, not tied to the recitation, and the tape provides harmonic underlay or atmosphere.

The music uses 12 different tetrachordal scales, some authentic Greek modes, others invented. These are used in three ways: the tape cycles through them systematically, the duos adopt a different one for each line of poetry, and the harps move among them informally, retuning for each new passage.