loveless vessels

for soprano and 6 instruments
June 2010; c. 10′

Premiere: The Chimera Ensemble, Jessica Main (soprano), York Concert Series, 10th December 2010.

This second piece to set a poem by Canadian poet Christian Bök continues a similar theme, discontinuity within or around continuity, and experiments with mixing improvised with notated material for structural and harmonic parameters.

Bök’s poem ‘Vowels’ permutates its title to produce a meditation on love and loss; ‘loveless vessels’ corresponds initially by translating the poem’s phonemes into rhythmic cells to produce a subject formed on a heptachord; “we vow solo love.” Thereafter, ruminative and humorous episodes interpreting canonic forms allow varying degrees of deviation from the original subject matter, by gradually increasing the soprano’s, or the text’s, control over the ensemble’s timings and actions, while the players themselves explore greater parametric freedoms.

we see love solve loss

While the players often follow cues from the soprano, in rehearsal all were invited to search for ways to correlate their interweaving lines, as they blur in real-time, collectively through experimenting with and discussing their gestures and characterisations.

else we see love sow woe

In constructing and characterising the musical meaning and significance of their individual lines, a question of engagement versus disengagement in a collective appears to drive the performative process, as well as to have driven the compositional one; I was reminded of H.W. Longfellow’s “ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, only a signal shown and a distant voice.”

There is only one theatrical rule; the enclosed soprano strings a web around her, forced by more limited material. The electric organ is a rogue element throughout.

Wolves evolve.