The Naomi Songs
version for voice and piano(2015)
|Text information||Text by Bill Knott|
|Movements||1. The Beach|
2. I Left
3. When Our Hands Are Alone
|Commission||Commissioned by the Albany Symphony Orchestra with Funds Provided by the Music Alive Residency Program of New Music USA|
|Premiere||May 15, 2015; The Curis R. Priem Experimental Music and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute , Troy, NY; David Alan Miller, conductor • Theo Bleckmann, voice|
|Technical requirements||The singer should be amplified throughout with a fairly generous amount of reverb on his or her voice. He or she is asked to loop his voice in the third movement. In the case of the premiere the singer used a hardware looping and reverb set up. The composer also provides a simple application built in Max/MSP.|
I discovered the poetry of Bill Knott through my friend Eric Shanfield, who dumped a series of interesting documents that he’d found on the internet onto my hard drive. Among these was an unadorned file set in Times New Roman titled “ALL MY THOUGHTS ARE THE SAME, the collected poems of Bill Knott.”
I poured over this curious volume which the author (then living) posted on the internet for free. What I discovered was a humorous and passionate writer of short poems. I was particularly taken by a series of four poems that were all addressed to a mysterious Naomi. Later, when I heard he had died in late 2014, it seemed to appropriate to memorialize him with a short song cycle based on his poems.
Since each one of these short songs is concerned with love, I decided to put the entire piece in the same key (F) with each song in a different mode (different minor and major scales). The melancholy first song, “The Beach,” channels French Impressionism punctuated with pizzicati. The second, “I left” luxuriates in long, sensuous melismas. The third “When our hands are alone” is a moment of safety and repose (featuring either electronic looping or two extra voices). And the final—“What Language Will be Safe?”—returns to the opening song, with an unexpected resolution.
- Christopher Cerrone