The central inspiration for Color Field is a person: Melanie Sabelhaus, the honoree of this work. I began the creative process upon first meeting Sabelhaus in New York City, when I learned about her family, her Serbian roots, her work and the music she loves. She is bold, audacious, generous, and a pioneer for women in business and philanthropic work.
She also loves the color orange – in particular Hermès Orange – and thus began my exploration of color. This led me to Mark Rothko’s Orange, Red, Yellow (1961) – a powerful example of the artist’s Color Field paintings, featuring red and yellow framing a massive swash of vibrant orange that seems to vibrate off the canvas.
While I explored creating music that evokes colors, I thought about synesthesia, a perceptual phenomenon in which a person hears sound, pitch and tonal centers and then sees specific colors, and vice versa. In the case of composer Scriabin, he associated specific pitches with specific colors, which I have adopted as tonal centers for the three movements of this piece: Yellow = D, Red = C, Orange = G.
Each movement of Color Field weaves in elements of the life of Melanie Sabelhaus, for whom music has always been in the house. Yellow evokes a hazy warmth and incorporates a traditional Serbian melody, first heard as a very slow bass line, and then revealed in the middle of the movement in the strings and winds. In Red, the fires blaze with bold percussive patterns and lilting lines. In Orange, the music becomes still and breathes, and then escalates once more, incorporating elements of Yellow and Red to create Orange – the signature color of Melanie Sabelhaus.
–Anna Clyne, 2020
This program note may be reproduced free of charge in concert programs with a credit to the composer.