This past June, I had the pleasure of traveling out to Kansas City, MO to hear mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen and violist Michael Hall premiere Folio 1, a new song-cycle they commissioned from me in January 2016. Folio 1 sets texts by poets Lauren Clark (whom I set in Bound, my 2015 song-cycle for Megan Ihnen and members of Latitude 49) and Hannah Ensor, as well as an anonymous source.
As you will hear, Megan and Michael gave Folio 1 a stunning premiere performance, which took place as part of Michael’s guest artist recital at the 2016 UMKC Composer Workshop. I could not have been more excited for the chance to work with Megan again, and to make Michael’s collaborative acquaintance. Moreover, I could be more grateful to composer Mara Gibson, who organizes UMKC’s annual Composer Workshop and whose gracious hosting made Folio 1’s premiere possible.
I’ve embedded recordings of Folio 1‘s six movements below, along with short program notes about each movement’s text and music.
I. I pulled a string out of my throat (Lauren Clark)
The text for this movement comes from Lauren’s unpublished manuscript LACUUS, which she very generously shared with me for this project. Although Folio 1 is not a strictly narrative song-cycle, this movement reflects the same narrative perspective as movements III, IV, and V.
II. In Memory Of Reuben Shapley, Esq. (Anonymous)
I found this movement’s text on a memorial plaque hanging on the wall of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, NH while I was visiting the city for the 2014 PARMA Music Festival. These words moved me deeply, and I immediately copied them down with the hopes that, some day, I would have the chance to set them to music.
III. I want to go home (Lauren Clark)
This movement’s text also comes from Lauren’s unpublished manuscript LACUUS. I composed “I want to go home” using a personal iteration of Arvo Pärt’s tintinnbulation technique, which helped me capturethe sparce and austere beauty of Lauren’s words.’
IV. Listening to guitar (Lauren Clark)
Again, this movement draws its text from LACUUS. While composing “Listening to guitar”, I found Lauren’s words to be sultry and sensual, which I aimed to convey with a deliberately oblique reference to the style and sexuality of mid-century jazz ballads along the lines of Chet Baker’s ‘My Funny Valentine’ or Johnny Hartman’s ‘They Say It’s Wonderful’.
V. I wake up on an airplane (Lauren Clark)
This is the final movement that sets text from LACUUS. The alarm and alertness of Lauren’s narrator is embodied in the relative extremity of this movement’s rhythmic intensity, as compared with the rest of the cycle.
VI. Eat the fries (Hannah Ensor)
I commissioned the poem set in “Eat the fries” from Hannah in the summer of 2014. Her text is intrinsically sarcastic and cleverly presented, and I aspired to capture these characteristics in my music. The message of this song may seem targeted at our nation’s current political situation, but, believe me, I lack the foresight to have made that coincidence intentional.