black bile (2012)

Marc Yeats - Composer

black bile (2012)

Dedicated to Sylvia Junge | Commissioned by Thumb Ensemble

Instrumentation: flute, soprano saxophone, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, tenor trombone, bowed vibraphone, piano, viola, doublebass | Premiere scheduled for February in Birmingham.

Duration circa. 14 minutes


The Melancholic humor, or black bile, is the humor most prone to aggravation and pathology.  In fact, the very word “melancholy” is almost synonymous with morbidity. Even normal black bile, due to its inherent nature and temperament, is the humor least conducive to the optimal health and nutrition of the organism, even though it does have necessary physiological and metabolic functions to perform. And morbid forms of black bile are even more deleterious in their effects than the morbid forms of other humors.

Since black bile is the most effete of all the humors, its pathologies almost always involve excess, with deficiency only a minor consideration. In its pathologies, a distinction must be drawn between black bile in its subtle, vaporous aspect, also known as the Nervous humor, and black bile in its gross humoral aspect, also known as melancholy, or the Melancholic humor: The Nervous humor, in addition to being Cold and Dry, is also light, subtle and mobile; its pathologies are mainly psychic, nervous, spasmodic, convulsive and neuromuscular.

The Melancholic humor, in addition to being Cold and Dry, is also heavy, dense, gross and binding, being the metabolic agent of the Earth element. It is mainly concerned with pathologies affecting the digestion, metabolism and nutrition of the organism, particularly the bones, joints and connective tissue.

Greek Medicine .net

Black Bile is built around the music of a previous composition; faben studie (2011). Black Bile is more than another iteration; it is some 4 minutes longer than farben studie, is expanded harmonically through the addition of seven new instrumental sonorities and contains new material. These changes result in an ensemble work that though related to farben studie, feels and sounds quite different.

The role of the viola: The viola takes a quasi solo role throughout this piece and should perform audibly to the fore of the ensemble. Where obvious soloistic passages and phrases exist, the player is encouraged to perform in ‘concertante’ style.