acqua alta
per arpa e 9 strumenti (2001-2002)
23 minutes – no.30

This work for solo harp and nine instruments is the first part of the cycle entitled la Serenissima, a series of compositions dedicated to the city of Venice and its lesser-known, often dark sides.

'Acqua alta' is the expression with which Venetians refer to their high tide. The phenomenon, during which the Piazza San Marco is completely flooded, plagues the sinking city on average a couple of times per decade. It is caused by the conjunction of sun and moon, excessive rainfall, south-south-easterly winds and increasing subsidence. On 4 November 1966 the water level reached a staggering 1m94.

The work acqua alta, for solo harp and ensemble, is situated around the nocturnal square - the only piazza in the entire city. Day trippers have left because of the late hour, indicated by the Torre dell'Orologio, but ever so more because of the floods. At the head of the square we find the Basilica di San Marco of which the cross-shaped floor plan provides the base for the construction of the composition. The result is a sequence of musical arches, thirty-six in number, which happens to equal the amount of arcades of the lower colonnade of the Palazzo Ducale (Duke's Palace). The form most resembles what might be called a series of 'variations without a theme'. The beginning of each arch is easily recognizable by its downward cascade in harp, celesta and vibraphone. The Campanile opposite the cathedral rings out the end of the day, though not the end of the city's drowning.