Professor’s 9/11 piece resonates powerfully

“The Empty Sky,” a piece inspired by 9/11, received its debut performance at the University of Indianapolis Monday.

Butler University’s assistant professor of composition Frank Felice wrote the oboe piece and  University of Indianapolis faculty oboist Pam French performed it.

The piece occurs in three sections.

The first section is extremely open: soft, plaintive motives grow from expansive silences, stretching and pulling in tempi and dynamics reminiscent of Estonian classical composer Arvo Pärt.

Felice’s concept of this section brought the image of an empty sky, one that deeply affects him, to a captivated audience.

“I was pleased to hear from audience members that they connected the silence with the title, and that their yearning for more sound in those sometimes uncomfortable spaces helped convey the loss felt by us on that day,” Felice said.

For Felice, the loss of normalcy after 9/11 was most poignant in the sky above the United States on Sept. 12, 2001, a sky without the vapor trails of aircraft.

The second section interrupts the first, a fast scalar section that brings a sinister energy.

The open, expansive style returns in the third section, welcomed with a sigh of relief.

While skillfully crafted, the piece would have died without French’s dark, rounded tone and enviable control.

The piece could have used more length, and the scalar section felt misplaced, but Felice’s “The Empty Sky” is a moving presentation of his own personal experience of loss, one that resonates with an audience in a constructive and powerful way.

Butler music professor Doug Spaniol will premiere Felice’ new solo bassoon work, “Walkin’ by Myself,” on Oct. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall. His “Earthworks,” in collaboration with Dance Kaleidoscope, runs Oct. 6-9 at 7 p.m. at the Indiana Repertory Theatre.

Another new work, “A Pocket Breviary,” will be performed Oct. 22 at the Second Presbyterian Church.

More information about Felice can be found at and on his Facebook page “Frank Felice – Composer.”


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