for flute, violin, cello and piano


Pachysandra has dual significance in Vincent Calianno’s compositional output. Not only is it laden with deeply trenchant narrative meaning (in Calianno’s words, “it’s a pain in the ass to rip out of the ground mainly because you have to take out the whole damned plant (roots, vines and leaves) - there can be no pachysandra left when you want to get rid of it, if there is any left, it just grows back and customers call back and bitch at you to get it the hell out of their front lawn”), it marks Calianno’s first foray into the new and pure world of total serialism.  

Pachysandra attempts, in large part, to redeem Calianno for the bourgeois and decadent tonality of his previous works  (among them, Elyria-O and At Times My Sadness Falls Into…).  It replaces the hedonistic, Dionysian soundworld of these early pieces (which can only be assumed to indicate Calianno’s relative immaturity at the time of their composition) with the proud structure of the tone row, which holds this mighty composition aloft like the iron hand of a father. Like the noble pachysandra plant (Pachysandra terminalis, an evergreen cover for partial to full shade and pH neutral soil), the piece is built on several dense lines that occur simultaneously (a compositional technique with precedent in the late works of Ernest Krenek).  The row extends to cover every formal element in the piece, including articulation, spatial/timbral positioning and the color of the flautist’s shoes.  

Given that Calianno now carries the proud flag of total serialism high, we can only expect that this performance of Pachysandra will indicate the beginning of a new evolutionary compositional phase, where all sounds have equal meaning and the degenerate chains of tonality are cast aside. Pachysandra is the first step on the road to that to that glorious day.  


Flute, Violin, Cello, Piano


4 mins.


14 March 2001 
Kulas Recital Hall 
Oberlin, Ohio 
Sandra Sutak - flute,  Mike Gallope - piano, Ben Nisbet - violin, Kivie Cahn-Lipman - cello