Five musings for soprano and piano (2002)

Duration: 15′

Poetry by the composer in Spanish.
Written for soprano Rachel Rosales.
Performance history.

In 1992, the casual meeting of an old friend in a busy city street prompted the revival of many memories, some going back to my teenage years. These intense feelings were translated to poetry in the span of two days in the form of eight poems. Five of these poems are set to music in this collection:

I. Deseo (Desire) is a passionate poem that juxtaposes and contrasts words such as “hardness” and “soft” “cold” and “wam” , “resolution” and “serene”, implying the extreme feelings that desire can bring.

II.Definición(Definition) is the remembrance of a conversation held in the tight surroundings of a car by two inexperienced teenagers. Two beings who don’t know who they are and expect the other to define them. Musically is the most dissonant of the set. Three chromatic note figures in ostinato portray the intense tension and atmosphere inside of the car.

III.El Pasado Perdido (The Lost Past) is the most impressionistic of the set with constant trills in the piano part imparting a sense of mystery and ambiguous reality and dream.

IV.Calor (Heat) is about oppressive heat and nervousness experienced by two beings having a quiet conversation in a windowless tight room. The heat makes breathing difficult. The conversation is at times distracted by the reflection of blue eyes in the mirror. This song is very sustained with a steady and continuous accompaniment of eighth-notes in the piano that don’t subside until the central section where the syncopated rhythm paints the panted breath and the blue reflections that melt in the suffocating heat.

V.El Sol (The Sun) is a sensuous poem that praises the sun’s warmth and its power to penetrate the skin.

Published by Hidden Oaks Music Company. 

Moments of change for soprano and piano (2005)

Duration: 15′

Poetry by Margaret Atwood in English.
Written for soprano Eileen strempel.
Performance history.

Song cycle of five songs for soprano and piano based on five poems by Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. The moment from Morning in the Burned House;Habitation, More and more, It is dangerous to read newspapers, and Late night from Selected Poems 1965-1975.

I. The moment illustrates the false notion that makes us believe that we own land and other property in this world. Only to realize this is false when we die – we own them only temporarily. The music underscores the dramatic moments of the poem and the futile pursue of ownership: we work all our lives trying to acquire more property until we stop breathing and realize we were visitors in this world and we own nothing!

II. Habitation focuses on the moment when two people after many years of being married ask themselves what is marriage: it is not a house, or even a tent, it is before that and colderÊ. The music is reflective, sparse and austere and it ends without an answer, the same way it started, just like the poem.

III. More and more is a very passionate poem about desire and its search to satisfy it not knowing why and not being able to stop it (a starved dog’s logic about bones.’ The music emphasizes intense and loaded words such as ‘burning’, ‘hunger’, ‘starved’, ‘consume’, with dramatic shifts of mood and tempo.

IV. It is dangerous to read newspapers is the moment when we read a newspaper and realized the contrast between our safe daily lives in the cities and the violent acts of war being committed in other parts of the world. The music reflects these simultaneous realities, the safety of our daily lives and the horrors that take place in other places of the world.

V. Late night takes place on a night when a storm is attacking us like a giant dog or wild boar with huge ears,’ and when the powerful effect of the thunder on our windows and roof is terrifying a moment later our thoughts anticipate the serene sky after the storm then we realize that all that we want is our loved one (‘screw poetry, it’s you that I want’.) The music reflects these extreme states of mind.

Published by Hidden Oaks Music Company.

Gacelas de amor for mezzo-soprano, flute and piano (2009)

Duration: 9′ 30″

Based on three poems (in Spanish) by Federico Garcia Lorca from the collections Diwan del Tamarit (1931-1934) and Canciones.

Commissioned by and written for Christiane Meininger, flute; Jörg Waschinski, male soprano; and Rainer Gepp, piano.
World premiere at the Zentrum for Information und Bildung in Unna, Germany. Sponsored by the American Embassy in Berlin, the Center for International Light Art in Unna (Germany) and a travel grant from the Peabody Institute of John Hopkins University.
See full concert program.
Read Concert review (in German) and in English).

I. El amor desesperado
II. Lucia Martinez
III. El amor maravilloso

Published by Hofmeister Musik Velag. 


Solitary for baritone, clarinet, cello and piano (2009)

Duration 3’30”  Solitary for baritone, clarinet, cello and piano, based on poetry by Hollis Robins, was commissioned by Andrew Talle and was premiered at Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins in the fall of 2009.

According to Robins, the poem Solitary is part of a sonnet sequence called “Sonnets of Imprisonment,” which are all loosely about being bound either by the form or by real or psychological bars.  The poet William Wordsworth considered the sonnet form both constraining and liberating; in this longer sequence Robins says that she explores the nature of formal and psychological constraints as they work together.  The music attempts to capture the frame of mind of the narrator when faced by real or imaginary threats: the dreadful ‘waiting’ of the footsteps of the guards; the resistance to what one is “supposed to do’ and the violent consequences; the ‘remembrance’ of ‘normal’ life; the foreseeable dread and inevitability of an certain future.

Audio of premiere     Solitary    by Hollis Robins

There is a furtive echo you get used to.
You spend enough time waiting for the sound
of the footsteps of the guard on midnight rounds,
it tells you that you’ll do what you’re supposed to.
It reminds me of the summer nights I used to fish at night
without a light to hear the sounds of screen porch cocktail laughter
drifting down where I listened still and silent well past curfew.
It was worth it still despite the midnight beatings.
Fish helped but fishing wasn’t why I went.
I wished to see how normal people spent their time
on ordinary summer evenings.
I tended not to do what I was told to.
And the whispers told me where I would be sent.