to Get Elsewhere
The lyrics for Songs of Elsewhere do not tell the whole story of
The following is an attempt at illuminating the process of creation of
these songs and also their expressive aims.
this short text proves unhelpful, bear in mind the following: while certain
contemporary composers sometimes claim that their work is coldly rational,
my work is coldly irrational.
The basis for this song is wordplay, especially anagrams. Lyrically it
describes an abstraction of activity, of things taking place but what
things and where is of course quite impossible to discern. The one thing
that's clear is that this activity defines a unique historical moment;
that when one looks back, it will be in fondness for one's Ladle days.
Lame Drops In
The text of Lame Drops In has no narrative, linear aspect but instead
moves through space, as though describing a sculpture, a fixed object
with many vantage points.
What's at Stake?
In this piece the theme of dining out is quite obviously invoked, and
permeates every aspect of the lyric. The idea was a meeting of two vital
activities: eating and sleeping. At one point, advertisements for two
dream restaurants are intoned by the speaker.
This piece was based on a rare occurrence of a nightmare which I had in
the early months of 2001. It ended, frighteningly, with the strange exclamation
that gave me the title. Using the musical code invented for Invisible
Song (see below), I 'translated' the word Valvatex into a musical motif
which is heard forwards, backwards, upside-down, and backwards and upside-down.
This appears throughout the piece, in several transpositions.
The melody and words are taken verbatim from a dream. In it, a well-known
cartoon character was sitting quite dejectedly on the front steps of his
house, intoning this peculiar song with his head in his hands. The clash
between the near-suicidal torpor of the melody and the naive hopefulness
of the words was what most interested me. In order to compound the depressing
effect of the music, I quoted, at the beginning and end of the piece,
a sad tune I once heard someone whistling on the subway. Luckily having
had manuscript paper on hand, I copied the melody down as I heard it and
scored it for clarinet in this piece.
The words track the object of the story from youth, through adolescence,
adulthood and on to old age. It is meant to convey a reflective summing-up
of the accomplishments and failures of this individual.
The words of this song seek to accentuate the spectral qualities of water
at its most frightening; namely, oceans and lakes as seen by night.
This describes the birthday of Pathrow, a ghost, who is turning thirty-six.
In place of the typical 'happy birthday' banner, a banner bearing the
'everybody' is set aflame in celebration of the occasion. Pathrow is
presented with an unsettling assortment of gifts, including gloves (plain
ones, apparently). Party games are played as well.
Song of Night
This song alternates between a very free, fantasy-like 'A' section and
a strictly controlled, constraint-based 'B' section. In the ?B? section,
the lyrics are derived entirely from the letters found in the title. The
line in the middle given by the speaker, 'ignoring the dovex milk law,
he did what he wanted' refers to the mysterious letters (which can be
arranged into the phrase dovex milk law) found in the painting He Did
What he Wanted by Yves Tanguy. View the painting here
This is based on a dream. The synonym in question is that of a six-three
chord (a C major triad played, on the glass harmonica, in first-inversion)
to the activity described in the lyric.
An attempt at a state of extreme sensitivity, with every note and every
word resonating almost in isolation from its brothers and sisters.
Song of Crime
Depravity and contempt for the law, presented in numerous unvarnished
ways. The villain is of course the Grim Codger, our friend from Ladle
Days (whose recondite appelation, incidentally, is a near-anagram of the
renowned sleeptalker, Dion McGregor). The events are described by the
singer, while the speaker plays the G.C. himself.
This song really is invisible. I wanted to find a way of incorporating
a text into a piece of music without it actually being sung. The best
way I could think of doing this was to create, by chance, a code, whereby
the letters of the alphabet correspond to 26 different pitches between
middle C and the D two octaves above it. The text comes from a dream.
International Chimney and the Matyiko Boys
The genesis of this piece was the title phrase, which I heard while viewing
a television program called Frontiers of Construction in January of 2001.
The Matyiko Boys are employees of International Chimney, the company hired
to engineer the relocation of the famous striped Cape Hatteras lighthouse.
The lyric takes this event as its starting point, but also alludes to
the dangers of verticality, and height as a detriment to permanance, but
also to the glories of transcending the forces of gravity that keep us
all firmly planted on the soil.