THE DISTANCE TO THE MOON

Program Note

THE DISTANCE TO THE MOON is a realization of and reflection on the short story of a similar title by Italian surrealist writer Italo Calvino. The story begins with the 19th century scientific premise that, millions of years ago, the Moon was much closer to the Earth and was gradually pushed away by the tides. Calvino imagines, at one time, that these two bodies were so close that during high tide one could jump from a boat into the Moon's gravitational pull. There are three main characters: the narrator Qfwfq, his cousin, known only as “the Deaf One,” and the nameless wife of Captain Vhd Vhd. The three make this journey for the purpose of harvesting Moon-milk, a viscous, fermented mélange of terrestrial detritus which has lifted off the Earth and settled into scaly crevices on the Moon's surface.

Calvino’s peculiarly named characters form a love triangle—Qfwfq has an unrequited love for the harp-wielding wife of Captain Vhd Vhd; her unrequited love, the “Deaf One,” is himself enraptured only by the Moon. As the Earth’s tides push the Moon further away, it becomes increasingly difficult to leap between the two. During their final journey, Captain Vhd Vhd’s wife intentionally maroons herself on the Moon in an attempt to become closer to that which “the Deaf One” desires. Despite attempts to reach her, she drifts further and further away, but for a time, Qfwfq is able to catch glimpses of her lightly strumming her harp until the distance is too great and her form fuses with the Moon, vanishing from sight.

In this work scored for flute, viola, and harp, the flute often represents the wife of Captain Vhd Vhd, the viola Qfwfq, and the harp the Deaf One and the Moon itself.

-Stephen Cabell