Theseus and the Minotaur

(2014, open duration)

For two percussionists
Commissioned by the Asian Young Musicians Connection

Team

Percussion Duo

Preface

When I was approached by the Asian Young Musicians Connection to write a piece for its 2014 performance, I was inspired by composer Richard Tsang’s “Creative Musicking” approach to composition, where the performers and audience members become active participants in the musical experience. As a result, I created a board game for two percussionists where both players have to strategize in order to win the game.

Theseus and the Minotaur is based on a story from Greek mythology. King Minos of Crete trapped the Minotaur, a creature with the head of a bull and the body of a human, inside an elaborate labyrinth. Every seven years, King Minos demanded that King Aegeus of Athens send seven young men and seven young women as a feast for the Minotaur. To put an end to this sacrifice, King Aegeus’s son Theseus came to the labyrinth to kill the Minotaur. As Theseus neared the labyrinth, King Minos’s daughter Ariadne handed him a ball of string. Ariadne tied the other end of the string to the entrance so that Theseus can follow the string and find his way back out of the labyrinth after he slew the Minotaur. Theseus held on to the string as he moved around the labyrinth in complete darkness; only the sounds of footsteps from Theseus and the Minotaur can be heard.

In Theseus and the Minotaur, one percussionist plays the role of Theseus, and the other the Minotaur. The labyrinth game board consists of rooms with different textures (wood, stone, and gravel). As the players move through the labyrinth, their “footsteps” create different kinds of sounds. The players listen to the sequence of these sounds to locate and capture each other. All of the players’ moves are communicated through various percussion instruments.

Theseus and the Minotaur was commissioned by the Asian Young Musicians Connection, and was supported in part by a PSC-CUNY Research Fund grant from The City University of New York. Special thanks to David Jones for designing the game board, and to Sean O’Neil who helped me develop the concept for this work.

Heard

June 28, 2014: Asian Young Musicians’ Connection, Taipei National University of the Arts (Taipei, Taiwan)