Village Scenes for soprano and piano (2002/04)

(version available for mezzo soprano). Duration: 6′
Poetry by the composer in Catalonian.
Written for soprano Rachel Rosales.
Premiered by Catalonian mezzo soprano Anna Alàs at (Spanish radio).

Village Scenes was inspired by memories of my childhood in the early 60s. In the summers me and my parents vacationed in Ullastrell, a very small village near Terrassa (Barcelona) during four or five years. The three poems that inspired the songs were written in early October of 2002, after returning from a trip to Spain. The poetry is in my native Catalonian language.

I. El Portal: In this poem I recreate the vivid image I have of me peeling corn husks at the door of a very old “masia” (Catalonian stone-made house) with other village children. I still remember the darkness and the cold temperature inside the house – with few windows and without lighting. I remember the contrasting feelings of the coldness inside the house and the outside warmth of the sun. 

II. El Poble: Ullastrell was surrounded by fields and small hills with Mediterranean vegetation. During the summer it was so hot that everything was tinged with a golden color, a mix of dried vegetation and sunlight. My memories of Ullastrell are wam and happy like the sun that always baked the village.

III. La Pluja is inspired by the late summer stormy days. After the rain, the whole atmosphere smelled like fresh wet soil. The whole village was happy, the farmers and the animals, everybody was happy to cool off. The vegetation also breathed easier putting on a new green coat! During the summer the storms were very impressive but lasted little S?the sun was always ready to come back to bake us.

Published by Hidden Oaks Music Company.

Five Songs for soprano and piano (1986)

Duration: 15′

Poetry by Federico Garcia Lorca in Spanish 
Written for soprano Rachel Rosales 
Read NATS article New Directions: “The Inspirational Lorca” by Sharon Mabry. 
See Performance history. 

This song cycle was inspired by five poems of the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936). The poems El silencio, La luna negra, Las seis cuerdas, andClamor” are drawn from the collection Poema del Cante Jondo (1921), and La mano imposible is from El Diwan del Tamarit (1931-35). Lorca’s poetry is born from the continuous juxtaposition of contrasting and opposing symbols which attempt to negate each other. His obsession with death, which he referred to as the Spanish lover, also pervades his work. 

In I. El silencio, Lorca materializes silence by telling us to listen to it. It is the quietest song of the collection with a certain purity imparted by the modal quality of the music. 

In II. La mano imposible we are presented with a white marble-like, disembodied hand, an anxiously sought for (perhaps divine) hand that protects the dying. The anxiety of the search for this imposible hand is represented musically by questionning ascending melodies that pause in their climax, asking for answers. The accompaniment is highly chromatic and the meters shift constantly. Towards the end, the poem’s atmosphere of anxiety lessens and there is a glimpse of accepting the impossibility of finding such a hand, even though, as Lorca says, “nothing else matters” except that hand. The song ends with a peaceful and consonant duet or interweaving lines between the soprano and the piano. 

Some symbols in Lorca’s work have dual meanings: the moon, for example, represents both death threats (personified by women that anchant men and lead them to death) and eroticism. In III. La luna negra , the “Black moon” is a terrible presence and a threat to the unwary. The music is given a floating quality by the lack of a tonal center and by the continuous trills in the piano part which surround the soprano melody. The eerie character of the music sustains the ambiance of magic and incantation that permeates Lorca’s poem.

In IV. Las seis cuerdas (“The six strings”) Lorca glorifies the guitar. This instrument is to Lorca a symbol of remembrance of lost souls and a connection with the dead; “the guitar makes dreams weep” and lets the sobbing of lost souls escape through its black wooden well. As in the previous songs, melodic dissonance in the vocal lines and piano writing portrays the anguish of the text.

Finally, in V. Clamor, Lorca personifies Death. We see her walking, crowned with withered citrus blossoms, and singing a song with her vihuela, while the church bells toll. Musically, the piece begins with the bell-tolling in the piano that sets up the appearance of Death (represented by a long and torturous chromatic melody in the soprano libe that starts in the low register, and slowly unravels as it reaches the higher register.) The melody’s accompaniment in the piano is dissonant, syncopated and rhythmically insistent.

Published by Southern Music Company. 


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.