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Home : mUSiciansKey Commissions : 2013 Aesop's Fables

Aesop's Fables

Composer: Alice Chance
Commissioned by:
 Leichhardt Espresso Chorus
Premiere: The 2013 Aesop's Fables concert on 29-Jun-2013 
Movements: 5

Composer, Alice Chance, writes about her conception of this Aesop's Fables work that comprises five movements.

   1. The Boy and False Alarms
   2. The Lion and the Mouse
   3. The Dog and the Shadow
   4. The Star-gazer
   5. The Fox and the Raven

Aesop’s Fables have always been very close to my heart. As a child, I would often read these strange allegorical tales before bed, then watch in wonder as the characters materialised into the substance of my dreams. Their lives seemed so far removed from anything I knew, and yet so applicable to everything I knew. Each story would resonate within me for hours after I finished reading. I would reflect on the outcome for that deceitful little boy who cried ‘wolf’ or that boastful hare who’s arrogance lost him the race. Yet despite my utmost attempts to be objectively moral in my judgment, a small part of me would always ache in sympathy for the characters to whom justice had been delivered.

Aesop is famous for his timeless narratives in which the guilty are punished and the good, rewarded. However what has always struck me more is Aesop’s portrayal of humanity. He captures the essence of our fundamental flaws. He offers an ideal, toward which to aim, yet in the process he gently identifies natural human weaknesses that must be overcome in order to reach this.

In my conception of this work, I wanted to offer my own perspective on Aesop’s classic fables. As opposed to merely a tale for moral guidance, I have tried to read each story with compassion and sympathy, developing my text from there.

In The Boy and False Alarms, one can notice an immediate pity for the young boy. He does indeed do the wrong thing in misleading the townspeople, but I aimed to examine the loneliness and isolation that may have led to these actions as a desperate plea for company and attention.

The Lion and the Mouse presented itself as an opportunity for me to combine my love of writing music with my other passion – word play! This movement is cheeky and the happy ending, rare as they are in Aesop’s fables, is warming.

Since the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus boasts a strong cohort of passionate, talented male singers, I thought that The Dog and the Shadow could be really effective if conveyed solely in the male voice. Aesop perfectly captures our natural pursuit of excess, despite already having enough, and warns against the consequences.

The Fox and the Raven displays a situation all-too familiar for the vast majority of us. The manipulative power of flattery can be shocking, and also very handy if one knows how to use it. I have always felt sorry for the Raven in this fable. He is punished twice for his naivety - both in losing his food and suffering the painful realisation that the Fox meant none of what she said!

The final movement, The Star-Gazer, is a reflective work. I’ve included a lot of galactic musical imagery to convey the haze of the man’s fascination with the stars, and his detachment from the real world. This story speaks to the star-gazer within us all. Our minds tangle themselves in the past and possible futures, leaving us lost in the present.

I hope that in listening to my work, you might be able to see Aesop’s famous fables in a different light. Although each character who strays from morality is swiftly brought back into line by fate, we still feel for them. Despite the fact that many are animals, it’s clear that each character is… only human.

Alice Chance