March 27, 2019
Casa Italiana, Columbia University, New York. Eric Moe and Robert Frankenberry pianists
Member Works
  1. Matrimony
  2. Scylla and Charybdis
#TitleText AuthorDedicationInstrumentation
1Matrimony Eric Moepiano
2Part II, Scylla and CharybdisDavid Del TrediciRobert Frankenberrypiano/narrator
Buy Score
Boosey & Hawkes

Dedicated to Eric Moe

Part I: Matrimony

What might the appeal of matrimony be to a long-entrenched militant gay man like myself? I think the hook is its forbiddenness. Centuries of religious and civil prohibition have made matrimonial access for many an impossible dream. The sex-drenched fingers of gay men and women shall never touch the pristine glory that is matrimony: so spoke the temple elders.

Then Gay Liberation arrived, and the walls came tumbling down, leaving that behemoth, or monster, matrimony – vulnerable. And so with my composer's pen I scratch life into its freshly-exhumed, still breathing body, wondering if its essence, unshackled, would heal me, or at least bring me a modicum of happiness.


Expressive and flowing, the Prelude has little to do with the rest of the work. There are, however, veiled references to Wagner’s Bridal Chorus and a later fortissimo drubbing of the same tune. Interlude is all scales – and serves as an introduction to the Double Fugue. This is an elaborately developed section which pits the Wagner Bridal Chorus against – on top of – around – the Mendelssohn Wedding March. In Quodlibet each theme is combined in increasingly bizarre and surprising harmonic ways. A Cadenza preceding the finale is tranquil, while still using highly filigreed material. A pianissimo quote from Robert Schumann opens the Finale. From this point to the finish the music grows steadily more frantic, suggesting on the one hand a wildly successful wedding night, or, on the other, strife and discord.

Dedicated to Rob Frankenberry

Part II:Scylla and Charybdis

Scylla and Charybdis, in Greek mythology, were two immortal and irresistible monsters who beset the narrow waters traversed by the hero Odysseus in his wanderings (described in Homer’s Odyssey, Book XII). They were later localized in the Strait of Messina.

When I came across the above description – I no longer remember the source – I was inspired to make the story into a melodrama and write my own version of Homer’s tale. Melodramas are usually poetry spoken against a musical background. Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Richard Strauss and Poulenc (“Babar”) have all written them. But I added a new twist: the pianist would play the music and speak the words simultaneously -- a job for two rolled into one! (I thank my friend, composer Frederic Rzewski, for getting there first.)


A harsh Fugue attends the dramatic birth of Scylla. Charybdis, a whirlpool, arrives more subtly later. Two battles are fought pitting Odysseus and his men against the two monsters.

Much happens. There is a visit by the Greek soldiers to Messina's “Spanish Quarter” where a festival is in full swing – a “Battle-Bagatelle,” is heard, as well as the Canonico Grande. Scylla creates an uproar with her visit to the notorious flesh-pots of Messina.

In the final battle the two sides remain evenly matched until Scylla falters. Pitching forward, she leaves the battlefield – and victory – behind. Suddenly a song bursts forth from the pianist’s throat -- a song of farewell to Scylla and to Charybdis, sung as the two disappear and are transported into the firmament, their spirits taking a place among the stars.

– David Del Tredici