I understand you perfectly
for ecello and fixed media
Dedicated to Craig Hultgren

Premiere October 8, 2015
Birmingham New Music Festival
Birmingham, Alabama

SATOR
AREPO
TENET
OPERA
ROTAS

I understand you perfectly, dedicated to the cellist Craig Hultgren, is based on the transliteration of an ancient phrase, sator arepo tenet opera rotas, a palindrome and magic square that can be read top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top, left-to-right, right-to-left and in a continuous back and forth “turning like oxen in ploughing.” The phrase can be translated loosely as the sower Arepo keeps the work moving, or the farmer uses his plow as his form of work.

Some scholars have considered the phrase a device invoked for magic incantation. It is found in many parts of the ancient world: Pompeii, Syria, Sienna, and more.

The matrix is 5x5, which is the structure of the SATOR magic square and also a term that refers to military voice procedures over two-way radios defined as a signal with excellent strength and perfect clarity—the most understandable signal possible. Five by five means I understand you perfectly.

The stereo track includes the Benjolin, generously on loan from composer David Morneau.