A man in a wheel chair by the side of a road gets a fleeting glimpse of a girl in the hub cap of a car. He becomes obsessed with her and tries to find her..
Brian Fogarty on Hub
Yes, to be … but how to make it worthwhile to be and to go on being is the question tormenting the man in the wheelchair whose pinioned, paraplegic condition is perhaps a metaphor representing a more universal state in our overstimulated age in which millions of people who can have everything but can touch nothing as they become transfixed by an after-image on a screen, a reflection in a shop window, a ripple in a puddle, a face glimpsed through a train or bus window, or a fleeting glimpse of a girl in the hub cap of a car, seek to find a yogic stillness through focus, and somewhere in that focus a soul that fits them like an upholstered suit of psychological armour, rigid and protective, calming their expressions of twitching agitation in the face of endless distraction and alienation.
And thus the chimeric girl in the hub cap provides the narrator with what turns out to be a kind of meditation – a quest not to find the actual girl but the ongoing inspiration for the poem her loss inspires for a man ‘in a wheelchair’ who can find no place where he himself can exist and become visible as he is swept along by the haunting hypnosis of the ocean of words swirling in the eerie, other-worldly under-currents of music in which the human envelope finally tears apart with a lacerating cry revealing a world that is wounded, mutilated, torn in two as he drowns, and, in drowning this insignificant individual surfaces and rises to the grandness of a mythical experience: to a condition that transforms an infinitude of empirical experiences into the tragic story of mankind.
About the soundscape for the Hub
The accompanying music intensifies the idea of the man in the wheelchair, the poet swept along on the tide of words as he feels, breathes, and writes them being permanently separated from the desired one, and the unknowingness of the desired one’s own thoughts, feelings, and true nature.
The overall sound world is an attempt to create the interior world of the poet and the ‘other-worldliness’ of the girl. The piece is largely non-developmental in an attempt to further evoke a kind of obsessive “stuckness”. The wheel hub suggests something metallic spinning like a top as it detaches itself and hits the road as the car flys by.
A Tibetan Singing Bowl was used to create a drone. High and low pitched bowls were used, the high one to create an ethereal atmosphere at the beginning of the work and a low pitched bowl to create an ever-present, oppressive, disconcerting disruption throughout the piece. The idealised feminine is represented by the high melismas provided by the wordless soprano and contralto voices.
The presence of the distant piano part that appears at certain moments in the music gently comments and reflects upon the unfolding narrative – partially quoting from Chopin and Beethoven and perhaps alluding to the ‘romantic’ aspects of the poet’s obsession, probably influenced by the late John Tavener’s ecclesiastical music, in particular ‘Lament for Jerusalem’ and ‘The Protecting Veil’. One could also interpret it as another’s thought process occupying its own world – the girl’s perhaps – especially if their eyes had met in the ensorcelled world of the hubcap?