witch marks (2016)

Marc Yeats - Composer

witch marks (2016)

For double bass | Dedicated to ‪Svetozar Vujic‬ | Duration: circa 3 minutes

programme note:
According to witch-hunters during the height of the witch trials, the witches’ mark (not to be confused with a witches’ teat) indicated that an individual was a witch. The witches’ mark and the devil’s mark are both terms applied to essentially the same mark. The beliefs about the mark differ depending on the trial location and the accusation made against the witch. Evidence of the witches’ mark is found earliest in the 16th century and reached its peak in 1645, then essentially disappeared by 1700.

The Witch or Devil’s mark was believed to be the permanent marking of the Devil on his initiates to seal their obedience and service to him. He created the mark by raking his claw across their flesh, or by making a blue or red brand using a hot iron. Sometimes, the mark was believed to have been left by the Devil licking the individual. The Devil was thought to mark the individual at the end of nocturnal initiation rites. The witches’ teat was a raised bump somewhere on a witch’s body. It is often depicted as having a wart-like appearance.

Marks made to keep out witches are also referred to as “witch marks”. For example, during works at Knole House in 1609 oak beams beneath floors, particularly near fireplaces, were scorched and carved with scratched witch marks to prevent witches and demons from coming down the chimney. Witch marks, both scratched and in the form of chalk circles in front of fireplaces, are still made as a tradition, as found at The Fleece Inn in Worcestershire, England.


Performance note: There are no page turn opportunities in this piece; the music will need to be spread across multiple music stands. The use of sul pont., molto sul pont., and scratch-tone, singularly or in combination are intended to emphasise all upper partials rendering the fundamental note partially or totally inaudible. In these instances, the performer should exploit upper partials at all times, especially where these techniques are combined with half-pressure harmonics.

Tempi markings are generally fast and push the performance forward. The composer is aware that some more time may need to be taken to fit in all the notated details and navigate the physical distance on the instrument between one hand position and another. The performer can adapt the tempi somewhat to suit their own technique but the marked tempi and relationships are optimum and should be aspired to at all times to imbue the performance with sufficient kinetic energy.