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Since I first saw images of Ice Age art in my childhood, my imagination and curiosity have been haunted by these spectacular paintings, left deep in hidden caves by prehistoric peoples. Some of the paintings and engravings in France have been dated to over 30,000 years before present. While these early humans lived in a much different world than ours, their art shows an awareness of their natural surroundings and a rich spiritual dimension integrated into their culture. This ancient proof of humankind’s artistic legacy has certainly left an impression on me; Shadow, Echo, Memory is my own personal response to the many years of intrigue and inspiration these prehistoric masterpieces have provided.

Scored for 21 cellists, the piece is built from a variety of musical colours, textures, and contrasts that blend and collide to illustrate the scene of a painted cave. The music incorporates many sounds that are generally not associated with the cello; echoing droplets of water open the piece, followed by a chorus of ghostly voices and the tones of exotic flutes as the cave comes alive. Textures and effects evocative of flickering light, reflections of water on rock, rising smoke, and shifting shadows give the piece a phantom sense of motion and imagery reminiscent of the ways your mind can be deceived in dim light

While we will never truly know the meaning of the art these people created so long ago, we can all appreciate it as magnificent evidence of their rich imagination and creativity in a very different age, and its enduring, profound effect on our own imaginations today. This piece was written for- and recorded by the Northwestern University Cello Ensemble, under the directorship of Hans Jørgen Jensen, in the spring of 2014 for their debut album, Shadow, Echo, Memory, released by the Sono Luminus label in July 2016.

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