Commissioned and performed by Indiana University as the winner of the 2010 Georgina Joshi Commission Prize, Dean’s Prize in Music Composition
Sharon Harms, soprano, The Indiana University New Music Ensemble, David Dzubay, director, Auer Hall, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN (2011)
Considering the special circumstances surrounding the Georgina Joshi Commission Prize, I wanted to create a distinct project dedicated to the memory of Georgina. I composed original poetry inspired by some of the favorite places I have been: Venice, Berlin, across the US, and Paris. As a musician writing poetry, I was empowered with a free license to evoke personal experiences through a package of text and music. One art form could influence the other; a creative dialogue between the composition of text and music was at play. I am fascinated with how different composers set the same text in disparate ways (for instance, the many different settings of the Requiem Mass). Road Trip explores this within myself as a composer. Each poem is first sang in English, then sang in each city’s native tongue, and musically transformed into a contrasting setting of the text. In this way, it is a “road trip” from myself, exploring how language can shape a new musical landscape.
There are seven mini-songs throughout the four movements. Two are in the first movement; three are in the second. The third song of the second movement is an interpolated pop song with lyrics from graffiti-art on the Berlin wall: “let me live my life, enjoy freedom, touch the limit, reach the stars, understand world, that's what I want”. The poetry of the third movement, Cracker Barrel, was written while driving alone on an actual road trip from Bloomington to Philadelphia, my hometown. At a certain point during my trip, I noticed a lot of Cracker Barrel restaurants. Out of curiosity, I started counting them. There are roughly 26 in this 700-mile commute! This music reflects the monotony of repetition yet dependable consistency of such a phenomenon. Rather than having two independent songs for the last movement, I mixed whispered French with sung English to imitate the chatter of voices in the Paris subway. The first time I was in Paris, an accordionist playing a Bach organ prelude in the subway mesmerized me. I couldn’t place the musician, whose mysterious playing echoed throughout the maze of the subway like “blurred stained-glass harmonies”. Twelve wine glasses played four-at-a-time by one percussionist evoke these words, which are central to the poem.
I would like to thank Mr. Yatish Joshi for creating the Georgina Joshi Commission Prize. This is a generous gift for composers in support of their music and a great generator of new vocal repertory. I am certain that Georgina would be extremely proud and happy with the creation of this award, being herself an active performer of new music. I also wish to thank the outstanding composition department at the Jacobs School of Music for selecting me as the 2010 recipient of this award.
- New Classical