Photos: Bonnie Arbittier

The Clearing and the Forest / a theater of music
Music by Scott Ordway
Scenic Design by Erica Eliot

Commissioned by the SOLI Chamber Ensemble
World Premiere: 02 June 2019, McNay Art Museum; San Antonio, TX
90 minutes without intermission
Clarinet, violin, cello, piano


Complete and meaningful ... its premiere by the SOLI Chamber Ensemble solidifies the quartet’s reputation as a national and global leader in modern music.
— San Antonio Express News
Ordway has created in The Clearing & the Forest a musical score of admirable discipline and integrity, and with great heart.
— Classical Voice North America

Program Note

In The Clearing and the Forest, we conceive of border crossing, permanent immigration, and refuge-seeking as profound versions of the more universal human experience of leaving home. We represent this journey abstractly, leaving space in the representation for all those who seek or have sought a world beyond their own world. The archetypal visual metaphor of clearing and forest articulates the difference between a place which we can see, know, and understand, and the world outside its borders which is unknown to us. In the first act, we imagine a group of people whose home has become an unsuitable place for them to remain. In the second act, they leave this place and wander both together and individually in search of another. In the third act, they are together again and perhaps better for having made the journey, but share a memory of the home they have lost.

About the Format

The Clearing and the Forest is a “theater of music”, a hybrid genre of performed art that blends instrumental music with theater, visual arts, design, and ritual. Unlike traditional western dramatic theater, the work is thematic, but not explicitly narrative. Instead, the visual components of the performance—sets, costumes, props, lighting design, and even the actors themselves—become abstract symbols rather than elements of a naturalistic scene. Furthermore, the main elements of the performance are not duplicative of one another. That is to say, the visual dimension is not an illustration of the musical dimension or vice versa. Instead, we aspire to create a slow poetry of moving images that exists alongside a musical narrative. This poetry is made up of simple objects and everyday activities and gestures. These elements do not always relate to one another in a linear way but—together with the music—form a constellation of images and gestures that resonate with the main themes of the work: home, togetherness, refuge, and loss, all of which are closely connected to the experience of border crossing.