Huis clos is a piece inspired by French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s play of the same title, often translated to English as “No Exit.” The entire play takes place in a room with antiquated furnishings, and features only four characters. As the play unfolds, the audience realizes that it is a depiction of hell, and that three of the characters have died and been sent to this room. As they each secretly ponder upon the sort of severe torture that awaits them, each ultimately comes to realize that he/she simultaneously serves as tormentor and victim to one another, in a hell sculpted simply by the gaze of the Other, a torture worse than all physical brutality.
Like the play, most of the tension and drama in the music lies deep beneath the surface, with the occasional overt outburst. The piece opens with a repeated figure that comes to dominate the musical texture, despite the flickers of energy that interrupt from time to time. Although there is a fair amount of activity on the musical surface, it gradually breaks down, and the overall trajectory of the piece is static, reflecting the stifling vapidity and triviality found in most of the play’s dialogue that thinly veil the weighty philosophical themes within.
Premiered by pianist Daniel Pesca on 24 March 2016 in Hatch Recital Hall, Eastman Theater, Rochester, New York, USA
Performed by pianist Tatiana Gorbunova on the 18th Biennial Festival of New Music organized by the Florida State University College of Music on February 3, 2017, in the Opperman Music Hall, Tallahassee, Florida
Performed by pianist Jeong-Ah Ahn on the 2019 ACL-Korea "Seoul Asia Waves" new music festival on 26 April 2019 at the Ilshin Hall, Seoul, South Korea
Awarded Honorable Mention in the Frost School of Music Ensemble Ibis International Composition Competition (2016)