Devil in the Belfry

for violin and piano

Anne LeBaron

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for violin and piano

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Composer Anne LeBaron
Year of Composition 1993
Duration ca.11'




Categories (all composers) , , , ,
Catalogue ID ce-alb1ditb1


Commissioned by the McKim Fund at the Library of Congress.

First performed by St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble in 1993 at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

Devil in the Belfry, for violin and piano, reflects Edgar Allen Poe’s values regarding the diabolic qualities in clockwork. Poe’s tale of 1839, with the same title, is set in the Dutch village of Vondervotteimittiss. The lives of its citizens, all obsessed with correct time and fine cabbage, are suddenly disrupted by the appearance of an outsider from “over the hills.” Carrying his fiddle, the newcomer scampers up the town steeple, attacks the venerable belfry-man, and commits the heretical act of striking the bell thirteen times instead of the expected twelve. The town, perfectly regulated until now, is thrown into unprecedented disruption and chaos.

Against the background of contemporary society, some one hundred and fifty years later, the allegorical power of this story emerges. The dominant time value of our age, efficiency, has grown in importance over the centuries with the invention of time-allocating devices such as calendars, clock schedules, and computer programs. We’re now hurtling toward a hyper-efficient nanosecond time world, resulting in ever-increasing artificial rhythms.  Meanwhile, “time rebels” advocate abandoning increased efficiency and speed, and instead reacquainting ourselves with the periodicities of the many natural time worlds of the earth’s organism.  Are the advocates for a return to ‘natural rhythms’ our modern-day “devils in the belfry,” or might the proponents for hyper-efficiency be the increasingly powerful disrupting factor in a world that once measured time by the sun, moon, and stars? In this work for violin and piano, I hope to convey the tension between these two divergent approaches to time observed at the beginning of the 21st century.