In classical music, it is quite unusual for composers to collaborate, but it wasn't like that among Flemish Renaissance painters –– if the painter in the studio next door did better angels and you painted better flowers, it wasn't unusual for a collaboration to ensue. In my case, however, the requests for collaboration has often come from others, and Julia Wolfe, David Lang and I found ourselves embarking on our third collaborative piece in 2004, courtesy of the Cologne-based musikFabrik ensemble and the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival.
The two other Gordon/Lang/Wolfe collaborative works ––Lost Objects and The Carbon Copy Building–– are made up of numerous short musical movements. With Shelter we wanted to stretch out a bit, and we conceived of the piece in seven longer movements. Once again we reunited with Deborah Artman, who had written the libretto for Lost Objects. Like Lost Objects, Shelter is a staged oratorio, but with smaller forces: three sopranos and a large mixed ensemble. And we reunited also with Ridge Theater and their principal artists, director Bob McGrath, visual artist Laurie Olinder and filmmaker Bill Morrison, our collaborators on The Carbon Copy Building,
I wrote 'i live in pain' as a present for my friends Donald Nally and the excellent Philadephia chorus ‘the crossing.’ The piece is a love song, and the text describes an intense longing for a lover who is no longer there. I was inspired to write the text by my attempts to read the works of the 12th century troubador, Beatriz de Dia, often referred to as the Contessa de Dia, probably the most famous woman troubador. I say my ‘attempts to read’ because she wrote in medieval Occitan, the antiquated version of a regional language of a small area in Southern France, which I don’t speak or read. Luckily I found a translation of some of her texts into Italian, which I also don’t really speak or read, but which I know at least well enough to push me in the direction of the text I finally made.
words by joseph rolnick music by david lang I lie was commissioned by the California vocal ensemble Kitka, in part with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. I have a long history with this ensemble, having worked with them on music for the American Conservatory Theater’s production of the play Hecuba, directed by Carey Perloff and starring Olympia Dukakis.
Kitka is an all woman group and it concentrates on music that comes out of the various folk traditions of Eastern Europe, so when they asked me to write a kind of ‘‘modern folk song’ it seemed natural to me to take the text of an old Yiddish song and give it new music. I chose this particular text because it has a darkly expectant feeling about it. It isn’t about being happy or sad or miserable or redeemed; rather, it is about waiting for happiness or sadness or misery or redemption. As is the case in many Yiddish songs, something as ordinary as a girl waiting for her lover can cast many darker, more deeply beautiful shadows.
I lie is dedicated to Lisa Moore and Martin Bresnick, on the occasion of their wedding.
words and music by david lang after genesis, chapter 1 I wanted to make a piece about the creation story but I didn't want to highlight one religion's or culture's narrative over another.
It was important for me to try to find something universal, something present in all stories, or common to all cultures. I hit upon the idea of making a kind of checklist of everything that needed to be created to get the world to this point, without each individual culture's stories or myths or exoticisms. I went back to the first chapter of Genesis, to see what I could get out of my own culture's story, and I stripped away all the descriptions, adjectives, connectors and motivators. All that is left of Genesis in my text are the nouns, leaving a dispassionate list of everything created, in the order in which it is mentioned.
evening morning day was commissioned by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Dianne Berkun, Director.