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June 7, 11a

Biomedical Engineering Building (Rotunda)

Louisiana Tech University

Ruston, LA 71272

[Livestream Link]

 

Program

Lying Down by Chris Zacharias (Massachusetts)

 

Too Late in the Evening by Christopher Cresswell (New York)

 

Pantomime by Manuel Torres (United Kingdom)

 

Swansongs by Mara Gibson (Louisiana)

 

Iris brevicaulis by Phillip Schuessler (Louisiana)

When in Dreams I'm Thwarted by Linda Kernohan (Michigan)

 

Notes

I discovered Lying Down from Mary Ann Caws Essential Poems and writings of Robert Desnos while pursuing an interest in surrealist poetry and art styles. What struck me was the juxtaposition of the natural environment and perceiving it in a novel way, alongside the languid framing by the narrator that coincided with my interest in developing a piece that could emulate dreamscapes. The listless nature of the poem allowed me to shift textures without necessarily focusing on maintaining continuity. As new information is established, new ideas are presented and latter discarded, focusing on the overall effect each line brings to the composition in order to paint a grander textural environment.


The poem, Too Late in the Evening, comes from Tim Carter’s "Remains", a book of documentary poetry based on the life of his mother, who passed away in 1995. The poems are written from interviews, letters, news clippings, and pictures Tim collected over the years. Tim gave me access to the cassette recordings of conversations and other ephemera from his childhood, which form the basis of this work. In the cassette recording we hear a conversation between a young Tim and his father, where his father asks him to “tell a story” and “to think about what it is you want to say, before you say it.” This is interspersed with the singer singing Tim’s poetry, written nearly two decades later, which tells that story. Too Late in the Evening was premiered by Savannah Gentry and Alize Francheska Rozsnyai on June 30th, 2023 at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI as part of the 2023 SPLICE Institute. Too Late in the Evening (Tim Carter): “If we forget how she chewed her food, how her hand clasped the back of her neck, then her body will become cottony gauze. If her body is cottony gauze, then she will be no more than a voice fluttering in the window, a voice that touches nothing of con-sequence. If the voice touches nothing, then the names of those we loved will fade, and with them, the choreography of the heart, until we forget even that we have forgotten. Then we will be left standing in a cold hallway by an open window, and it will be too late in the evening for anyone ever to be alive.”


The piece is product of improvisations inspired by a set of disparate aphorisms, poems, and short stories that the composer requested to his literary friends to prompt its composition. The five very different pieces that resulted were subsequently integrated, modified and adapted in order to build a single narrative structure, a pantomime (in its classical, theatrical sense) set to music. A diversity of characters -lyrical, ethereal, meditative, declamatory- are interrupted by outbursts of an energetic and uncompromising nature. This cast of musical metaphors, of poetic images and dramatis personae, influence and confront each other, until in the end one of them prevails, but not without being itself transformed.

Swansongs: Inspired by Swedish artist Hilma Klint (1862-1944), this cello and piano duet is a commission for Eduard Teregulov and Albina Khaliapova who have performed the work on several of programs and recently recorded the piece for Gibson's upcoming new album. Atlanta-based group, ensemble vim, also performed the piece in March 2024. Klint is especially known for her mystical thought, like that of Hildegard von Bingen, but centuries later. I aim to draw parallels between these two artistic women separated by hundreds of years. I will appropriate some of Hildegard’s music, where I will weave select quotes into a modern interpretation of mysticism. Of note, Klint’s work ran parallel to the development of abstract art (such as Mondrian, Malevich and Kandinsky) all of whom were all inspired by the Theosophical movement founded by Madame Blavatsky. The inner and outer world is important in Klint’s work. Swans have been a metaphor for one who takes flight from worldly trappings. She directly references the Chinese symbol of yin and yang which is further highlighted by contrasting color. While clearly struggling, they also function as mirrors – "femininity" and "masculinity" or the spiritual vs. material or the visible and invisible; there is a duality to all of these paintings. The music explores balance and imbalance, and other dualities of life. Though Hildegard was a non-dualist, the two artists shared many commonalities such as a search for own truth, both members of all female organizations, while Klint allowed hand to be led by spirit (automaticism), Hildegard believed music was the ultimate mode of communication that most closely resembled the angles. The three movements of the piece are subtitled: I. Hilma's Symmetry, II. Hildegard and III. Lock and Key all based on Klint's Swan series.

This work, written for cellist Paul Christopher, is the first in a series of works written for and dedicated to musicians and artists based in Louisiana – a state rich with visionary musical voices. These works celebrate these voices by featuring their talents in multiple ways. The Book of Irises is a subset within the larger series that are titled after the five native species (and two variants) of Louisiana irises.

Anxiety likes to spin itself out in dreams. Common examples include showing up at the final exam for a class you never attended, or being out in public and realizing you aren’t fully clothed. Two versions of this kind of dream have visited and revisited me periodically. One involves driving a car but being unable to fully control the speed or steering while careening down winding roads, narrowly missing obstacles and barely avoiding collisions. The other also involves a lack of control, but in slow motion: I have some task I’m trying to accomplish or destination I’m trying to get to, but I can’t make any progress. I feel like I’m walking through mud, or like I’ve been drugged. I encounter all kinds of errors and obstacles -- I’m trying to carry too many things and keep dropping them, or I find myself in a Kafkaesque bureaucratic maze where I’m told to go to one place, and when I get there I’m told to go where I just came from. Adding to the confusion and frustration, I’m never fully clear about exactly what my goal is -- I just know I’m being thwarted one way or another every step of the way. When I wake up after a dream like this, my memory of it is foggy and fractured. In this piece I attempt to capture the sensations, feelings, and images associated with these dreams through a variety of gestures and techniques. Frenetic gasps alternate with foreboding silences; patterns repeat but never progress; expressive outbursts appear then quickly lose their momentum. These processes are rarely pleasant, but I examine them in the hope that making space for catharsis will ultimately pave the way to serenity.

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