This performance is by a single performer, the incomparable soprano Amber Evans, who recorded all the parts. This new realization of my work was recorded and edited by Brian Daurelle. Below is my original program note for the piece.
A few years ago Zsuzsanna Ardó approached me about composing a piece for C4 based on her poem who are you?, a stark and powerful meditation on the nature of identity and how we think and speak about it, as well as the ways in which we sometimes uncritically accept others’ definitions of it for ourselves. I was glad to engage and come to terms with it, and to join the ranks of several other of my C4 colleagues who also have chosen to set Zsuzsanna’s poetry: Daniel Andor-Ardó, Artemisz Polonyi, Bettina Sheppard and Perry Townsend.
Among the challenges in setting the poem is its insistent quality, particularly its numerous repetitions that become obsessive refrains (e.g., “time and space”), along with gradually accruing strings of words commonly used in reference to the ways humans describe, contextualize, and otherwise "place" themselves and one another:
“culture script legacy web screen
grid frames imprints blueprints
template, language practice memes genes
manners mores prism universe tapestry”
A text that contains this much repetition and is this expansive is a test of a composer's resourcefulness. All one can do in the end, it seems, is embrace those aspects. A ritualistic, objective approach struck me as natural and essential, involving a refrain-like use of the poetry's iterative elements. The choice of treble voices perhaps evokes the idea of a siren call, though more in the sense of being compelling or riveting than seductive or alluring. The pure, clear timbre of a choir of sopranos and altos for me also evokes the feeling of a ritual, as well as possessing a kind of radiating intensity that I associate with certain music of Stravinsky, particularly works such as Symphonies of Wind Instruments, a piece that is itself ritualistic in its attitude and formal structure. As has occurred more than once in my life, I have been presented with the opportunity to write a piece that I might not have come to on my own, but that in the end I am very glad to have written. Thank you, Zsuzszanna, for giving me that opportunity, and thank you to the trebles of C4 and Timothy Brown for bringing this piece to life.
- Contemporary Classical