“The Soul is the Arena,” for bass clarinet and electronic music, was written for Joshua Rubin in summer 2010, and is dedicated to him. Inspired in part by accounts of wrathful deities in Tibetan Buddhism, whose spirits take wrathful forms to vanquish forces that hinder one’s path to spiritual liberation, TSITA is also concieved as a journey inward. The title from the piece comes from the prelude to Kazantzakis’ “Last Temptation of Christ,” discovered by way of Sepultura’s “Under Siege” when I was 12 years old. Sepultura’s version of the text:
From my youth onward has been the incessant, merciless battle between the spirit and the flesh, and my soul is the arena where these two armies have clashed and met.
The piece’s musical influences include technical death metal, Sun Ra’s distorted electric organ, and the solo instrument music of Stockhausen. Like many of my pieces, electronic feedback sounds are featured here, for a special atmosphere—like if Vajrapani (pictured below) made an appearance in a bardo version of Mortal Kombat.
Joshua Rubin will give the world premiere at the Velvet Lounge in Chicago on November 19th, 2010.