Published by
Project 440

Richard Carrick

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Find the Devils Lead

Performed by the Wet Ink Ensemble with Kate Soper, soprano; Carl Betterdorf, conductor.


One morning, I received a spammed email message from an unknown source containing a wonderful yet incomprehensible mix-up of phrases from the 17th to 19th Centuries. It begins, “Find the devil’s lead, I am going to take him, home. Here was a man, handsome enough to keep you occupied for hours on end.” The text is meaningless: full of disjointed juxtapositions of unfinished phrases (possibly by George Sands and others), yet quite seductive in its implications. Each unresolved phrase became important in implying a larger story that wasn't there.

I derived my own meta-story to this text, involving a woman who finds the devil's lead and takes the devil home. She is as seductive, tricky, and otherworldly as the devil himself. She sets out to beat the devil at his own game! It is a story that traverses time and place. She finds the devil in the little details of everyday life, and is able to put the devil in his place without being seduced by him.

To best emphasize the implications of the text over and above the disjoined words, I set the music as a continuous and strikingly linear expression, allowing the text to shade the musical experience instead of lead it.

à cause du soleil Flow Trio

Performed by Kuan Cheng Lu-violin, Dov Scheindlin-viola, Eric Bartlett-cello.

"á cause du soleil" Flow Trio is the culminating work in my hour-long The Flow Cycle for Strings, which is influenced by Islamic Mosaics, Gnawa music of Morocco, Albert Camus' L'Étranger, and the Flow concept of Csíkszentmihályi. This trio expands my interest in creating musical flow from Islamic mosaic art by incorporating a larger narrative set in North Africa.

"á cause du soleil" refers to Albert Camus' L'Étranger, the pithy justification given for the protagonist Meursault's impulsive actions, which unleash a series of unforeseen consequences. Although absurdist by design, Camus' linearity of thought in this work helped reconfigure the flow as a final common pathway for the three instruments as a unified meta-instrument, where the range of tenuous and tenacious sounds and melodies introduced throughout the Cycle synthesize and deconstruct in the finale.