Arachne's Web

Arachne's Web
Arachne's Web

In September of 2018, Arachne’s Web was performed at the Artists In Momentum, Through Glass exhibition — A cause that empowers individuals to break the stigma around mental health through their artistic and creative expression.

In sync along with the performance, Insiya acted as the "insie-winsie spider" weaving a large scale web on a black canvas.

Arachne’s Web is a composition that was “in-spidered” by spiders and more specifically, how they create their web. Sections of the compositional formal structure are representative of specific moments of the construction of a spider web. While this is the main concept that inspired the composition, there are a few other elements that help make this piece whole as well. There is much inspiration taken from the Greek myth of Arachne, a mortal who was transformed into a spider. In addition to this, Fibonacci’s golden ratio of divine proportion plays a crucial role, and as does our idea of fear and human emotion. 

THE WEB

The formation of a spider web is presented through the structural form of the piece. It begins with only two instruments, the cello and piano, acting as the first two anchor points in the first step of constructing a web. (1) Gradually, the violin comes in to create the third anchor point, (2) which is then stretched out by short melodic phrases continued by the viola and then the cello. (3) The spider then lowers and attaches the last anchor point to form a Y-shape, (4) which in the music, is where a new theme is introduced. The larger themes presented throughout this composition represent the construction of the outer frame of the web. (5) Eventually the spider must strengthen the web (6) which we hear from the marcattos played by the cello and viola. Tension builds and the spider draws it’s string to the centre point of the web, (7) where the motif heard from the very beginning returns, as a centre and focal point of the composition as well which is expanded throughout the section. The spider now prepares to make it’s spiral, (8) which is visually shown by eighth notes beginning on the piano, against triplets to build suspense. These eighth notes move up the staff to the cello, then viola and violin staves, in the form of a spiral. It repeats once again using different pitches to represent the new sticky string that the spider uses next. (9) The piece concludes with the motif from the very beginning one last time, symbolizing a new beginning for the spider and her web. 

THE MYTH

There is a tale of a mortal named Arachne, who was transformed into a spider by the goddess Athena.

There are three different versions of this myth, each with their own twist and beauty, yet in all of them, the mortal Arachne becomes a spider.

 

In one version, Arachne boasted that her skill was greater than that of the wise goddess Athena. This infuriated the goddess who then presented herself in disguise to the mortal as an old woman, with a message to respect and to not challenge the gods. Arachne ignored the words of the old woman and challenged the goddess anyway, who then removed her disguise and accepted. Athena wove images of the gods punishing mortals who had considered themselves as equals to them, thus committing hubris. Arachne wove scenes where the gods abused the mortals. Her work was in fact even more magnificent than Athena’s. However, the scenes of which Arachne depicted were insulting to the gods and enraged Athena who then ripped her work to shreds. Athena then the threw a potion onto Arachne, transforming her into a spider and punishing her to weave for eternity . 

 

In another version of the myth, Athena wove a tapestry of the people of Greece with herself and Poseidon over them in contest deciding which of them would be the patron saint of Athens. Arachne wove a depiction of Zeus’s advances to mortal women. Although Athena recognized Arachne’s skill, she wanted to teach her a lesson to be more humble and to respect the gods. With a touch on her forehead, Arachne realized her shame and she hung herself. Athena, feeling grief for Arachne, brought her back to life in the form of a spider so that Arachne and her descendants could weave forever. 

 

In the last version of the myth, Zeus was the judge of the contest between the mortal and goddess, and pronounced that whoever lost the competition would not be allowed to touch a spindle or loom ever again. Arachne’s work was thin, yet strong, bright, and full of colour. However, Athena’s work was made of gold thread, depicting the gods in their glory. Athena won the competition but felt pity for the mortal who could no longer weave to her hearts desire. So she transformed Arachne into a spider so that she could weave without a spindle or loom and without having to break her oath. 

 

 

THE GOLDEN RATIO

Within both art as well as nature, there is a pattern called the golden ratio. Built off of the mathematical fibonacci sequence, the shape of a spiral is formed. The golden ratio is known to be a hidden aspect within art and nature. As viewers and listeners, our attention is almost always drawn to one specific moment of the whole of a work put together, similar to a climax. This is of course especially prominent in a spider web. The artistic masterpiece of a spiders web is not only an obvious representation of the golden ratio within nature, but it is a representation of the golden ratio within an artistic nature.

 

 

THE FEAR

The point of this composition was to musically depict the eerily delicate qualities of a spider web while expressing the beauty and grace of spiders and their silk webs, which are often overlooked due to our fear of them. Fear creates a blockage but if we are able to find a way to look past it, we can see that there is a greater beauty hidden behind it. The creepy crawlers that they are, bring this emotion of fear to many, but they also bring a great sense of curiosity. They are simply small insects that weave beautiful works of art as their form of protection and survival. As humans, we do the same through our many different forms of art. We are able to express our emotions and use our creativity as a way of healing, ultimately protecting ourselves as well as eachother.

Spider