The Strangler Fig (2018)

During my 2017 travels to Ghana, I had the pleasure of spending a day in the Aburi Botanical Gardens just outside Accra, the capital. Within this park, there were many different types of trees. One tree in particular caught my attention. Its trunk was completely hollow, hollow enough for three adults to step inside the tree and look up many stories high. However, this tree was not always hollow. There had been a large, solid Afzelia africanatree in that exact spot for many years before a different species, the strangler fig (Ficus elastica) started growing around its trunk. The strangler fig grew from a seed which traveled in the air and landed on the top of the original tree, eventually growing its way down to ground level and intertwining its roots with those of the original. The strangler tree was a parasite; it used the original tree as a host and eventually destroyed it. The hollow tree in which I had stood was actually the strangler fig that had assumed the shape of the deceased Afzelia africana. Standing inside this large viny structure and seeing the sun pour through the holes in the trunk made me wonder if this tree could be played as a musical instrument or if its beauty could be captured in a composition. I chose to score this piece for multiple bassoons, since these instruments consist of long, hollow tubes of wood and when gathered together resemble the strangler fig. The Strangler Fig, written for the Glickman Ensemble, is the realization of this inspiration. The six bassoonists will stand in a tight circle on the stage in order to give the illusion of a tree. At various points throughout the piece, the bassoonists will rotate around this circle, eventually making their way back to their original location, which signifies the life cycle of the original tree. Both the stage setup and the music itself exemplify the concepts of hollowness and openness.


Premiered at Manhattan School of Music's Greenfield Hall – November 5, 2018,


Glickman Ensemble

Bassoon 1 - Lisa Alexander

Bassoon 2 - Dillon Meacham

Bassoon 3 - Richard Blake

Bassoon 4 - Jackie Sifford-Joyner

Bassoon 5 - Andrea Herr

Bassoon 6 - Edwin Cabrera