From The Bottom Drawer

Copyright: ©2006 Ann Millikan. All Rights Reserved.
Duration: 11:00

Instrumentation: string quartet

From The Bottom Drawer was written in collaboration with Arena Dances.

When György Ligeti wrote his first quartet in 1953-54, he said it "was intended only for my bottom drawer." Hungary was ruled by the Communist dictatorship at the time. Anything "modern" was banned, and only the official art of "Socialist Realism" was allowed. Even so, non-conformist artists were producing in secret. Ligeti wrote, "To work for one's bottom drawer was regarded as an honor."

Given recent trends in the US, I felt compelled to better understand what fascism really is, and what life was like for Hungarians at the time of the dictatorship. Thinking about fascism and what it means to live under government control was something I wanted to address in the piece as a means of ethical discourse. Most importantly, I wanted to consider what keeps a culture alive? How did they keep their language in tact, their culture, despite all the invasions of their country, including by the Nazis in WWII? I think of Hungarian artists creating "for the bottom drawer" as being like that intrepid flower growing in the parking lot, popping up through the concrete, insisting on life, on working, despite the circumstances. That is a tenacity I deeply admire, and wish to honor with this piece. From The Bottom Drawer is a contemplation of life under fascism in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, October 23, 1956.
I think of tenacity, humor, and irony when I think of what keeps culture alive. Translating these qualities into music, I created a piece that is quirky, surprising, a little off-balance, with meter and tempo changes, odd phrases, interruptions, and sonority juxtaposition.
SDPC 280 01 Score $15
SDPC 280 02 Parts $20
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