Steve Mackey - Orpheus Unsung

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Grammy-Award winning composer and guitarist Steven Mackey offers a fresh 21st century interpretation of the myth of Orpheus, explored through microtonality and “underworldly” sounds.

Structured in three acts Orpheus Unsung is an orchestral conception of the electric guitar, where the virtuosity lies not only in the finger play but also in the footwork on the pedals.

The hour-long narrative traces the myth of Orpheus in the underworld. Our hero Orpheus marries is true love Eurydice. Following the wedding, Eurydice is bitten by a snake and dies. Orpheus cannot bear this and embarks on a perilous journey to the underworld with the aim of bringing her back. Orpheus’ musical gifts are supreme, animals, plants and even stones, move in order to better hear him sing and play his lyre. He sings his plea to the ruler of the underworld who does allow him to take E back with him under the condition that he not look back to check to see if she is still there. When Orpheus crosses the threshold back to the surface he can no longer resist and he looks back but E has not yet crossed and she is immediately drawn back to the underworld, gone forever. Orpheus mourns but eventually comes to terms with his loss. Later, a mob of Thracian women in a Dionysian Orgy rips Orpheus apart. Dismembered, his head and lyre float down a stream, his head still singing and his lyre still playing, until they rest at the head of the stream and become an oracle.

The piece is structured in three acts that delineate the three phases of the journey – above ground, travelling in the underworld and the return to the surface and the land of the living.

Presented by Melbourne Recital Centre and the MCM New Music Studio


Steven Mackey guitar