A Cruel Circumstance

Eva Tidlund recently asked me to write a piece for a choir concert she’s putting together in April.  After some hemming and hawing I settled on this text, by my friend Alison:

I can’t for the sake of popular voice
detach myself when I write
that a fire of grief and desire
is scaling my throat and parching my voice,
evaporating my tears before I cry.
This is a cruel circumstance
that we may tempt but we may not try.

I like how a lot of the text seems to relate to the mechanism of singing.  The line,  “that a fire of grief of desire is scaling my throat and parching my voice” is especially suggestive of a musical concept.  It made me want to make the main motive some sort of rising pattern that could easily be extended into a longer line that brings the text to life.  So I wrote this melody:

The first bar contains the motive I use to build the long line that, “scales my throat and parch(es) my voice”.

The other part of that phrase, “a fire of grief and desire” also begged for some special treatment.  I wanted the words fire of desire to really sting so I used a really nasty chord built of a perfect fourth and a tritone (It has a really wailin’ major seventh pinch on the outer voices).  It’s in the second beat of the second bar below:

(Note the slur missing on the word grief in the alto part.  I would kick my copyist’s ass if imaginary people had butts attached to them.)

The concert is slated for the end of April.  Exact times and locations will be divulged when there are times and locations to divulge.

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