Hatsheput's Chant & Dance-BSN/PN
Composer: Frank, Robert
Publisher: Brixton Publications
for bassoon and piano
by Robert J. Frank (b. 1961)- American composer
Queen Hatshepsut is one of the most enigmatic and interesting figures in ancient Egyptian history. She was the only woman to ever rule as pharaoh at a time when only males were allowed to hold the position. For this reason, she is often depicted in carvings and drawings of the period wearing a beard or men's clothing. She also had a secret love affair with an architect names Senmut, who designed many beautiful buildings in her day, including the dramatic Deir El-Bahari temple carved out of a jagged cliff in Themes which he designed especially for her. Since he was not royalty- or perhaps due to a lover's quarrel- his name, which he had engraved into the stones of the temple in various places was erased, thus denying him a place in the afterlife, according to their beliefs. However, barely noticeable, in the bottom corner of one pillar, in tiny hieroglyphics, archeologists have discovered the one remaining place where he secretly carved his name so that he might have a place with his forbidden love in the afterlife.
Since no music of that period survives, this work is an imagining of a secret chant and private dance Hatshepsut may have sung and danced for him. The chant begins with strange and beguiling chants in the bassoon, including exotic multiphonics. These are accompanied in the piano with musical gestures reflecting the closing a large, stone tomb doors, marches of the temple priests, and a magical sprinkling of ancient chords. The dance that follows is in the spirit of the infamous "Dance of the Seven Veils", in which during each section the female dancer sheds another layer of covering and increases the pace. Beginning slowly, each of the seven sections build in speed and motion leading both dancer and her audience into a furious, wild, spinning finale.