Chamber with Voice

Softer or Something?

Premiered: June 23, 2021 in Pickman Hall, Cambridge, MA

Quinn Gutman soprano

Hunter Horne horn

Duration: 1:30

Written for a 72-hour event where the composers had 1 day to write a 90-second piece and the performers had 2 days to rehearse and perform it. In the performance, the soprano walks on stage, examines the horn as it makes music, and then wonders if they can sound like the horn.

7 Banned Words

Text by the Human Health Services

Written: 2018

 

Instrumentation: voice and vibraphone.

After hearing about the 7 words banned by the HHS for the CDC’s 2018 budget statement, I had thoughts about how much information would be missing due to the various exclusivities of minorities that these terms refer to. Therefore, I approached writing a piece about these 7 words by assigning them each a pitch class from the 12 pitch classes in western intonation (those 7 being F, A, A#, G, G#, D#, and D). After these words have been sung, their associated notes are taken away from the vibraphone and to never be played again. The vibraphone will try to sneak these notes in there, but the singer will not allow it.

Tesla in Love

 

Poem by Nicholas Bassman.

Premiered: April 2016. Oberlin Conservatory, Oberlin, OH.

James Vitz Wong dancer

Justin Weiss conductor

Kelsey Burnham flute

Quinn Gutman soprano (originally written for tenor)

Daphne Pickens and Stephanie Atwood violins

Thomas Chafe viola

Linnea Scott cello

 

Duration: 10:03

My friend, Nicholas Bassman showed me this poem speaking in the voice of the inventor Nikola Tesla to a (possibly hallucinatory) dying pigeon. Later, Tesla would say that he loved that pigeon like a man loves a woman. Nick told me that he interpreted the pigeon as more of a psychological phenomenon for Tesla in reaction to the life he lead up till then. In that life, he was constantly getting ripped off, not getting credit for his work, and overall, failing to make his inventions to come to life the way he had intended. Tesla had also lived his entire life in isolation from the outside world, not having interest in anything other than his

work. Later in life, he said that he regret that he never got married or had a family. This pigeon is as symbol, a wake-up call to Tesla about the elements of happiness that had missed out on in life.

Warbler Woman

poem by Louise Edwards

Premiered: April 2016 at Oberlin Conservatory, Oberlin, OH.

Quinn Gutman soprano

Leonard Ranallo guitar

Benjamin Craig vibraphone

Duration: 5:23

Somebody?…Anybody?… 

Premiered: February 28, 2014. Fairchild Chapel, Oberlin, OH.

Christine Jay soprano and flute 

Duration: 10:04

Where will Rest the Wanderer?

 

Translation by Joseph  Auslander of “Wo wird einst des Wandermüden” by Heinrich Heine

Premiered: November 15, 2013 Warner Concert Hall, Oberlin Conservatory, Oberlin, OH.

Noah Underhill boy soprano 

Leo Ziporyn oboe 

Chrispin Swank guitar 

Derek Zinky and Christiana Rose, piano  

Duration: 9:04

This song tells a fictional legend about a half bird/half woman creature and her impact on the world on the day of her birth.

My inspiration for Somebody? Anybody? came from supernatural experiences I had in a dormitory at summer camp. Every once in a while, my roommates and I would hear some rattling at the window. Other times, we would hear a repeated knock on our door. We would open the door and no one would be on the other side. One afternoon, I was alone in the room and decided to ignore the door knock. After four or five sets of knocks, the door opened by itself. We told our councilor about these experiences. She told us that she had a similar experience the week before the students arrived. She was lying on her bed and heard a voice whispering, “Can you hear me?”. The life of this ghost is depicted in this piece from when they realize they'd died and become a ghost to where they are now. All the various sound effects from the flute, the singing, and singing into the flute reflect the actions of this ghost takes as they're moving around, trying to talk, and trying to get attention from the people around them. 

The text of Where will Rest the Wanderer? is a translation by Joseph Auslander of the poem, “Wo wir einst des Wandermüden?” by Heinrich Heine. This piece presents a scene where a boy walks around a forest, conceptually thinking about what might happen to him when he dies. The rest of the ensemble represents the forest the boy is walking in. These instruments imitate sounds one would hear in a forest such as bird calls, trees rustling in the wind, little critters, the water of a lake, etc. These sounds are made through the use of experimental techniques, a chain passed between the pianists, and breath. These forest sounds mock the mood of the boy’s thoughts, telling him not

to think about such depressing things and enjoy life.

Parting at Morning

Text by Robert Browning.

 

April 6, 2013 Oberlin Conservatory, Oberlin, OH

 

Micaela Aldridge mezzo-soprano 

Zijun (Blaine) Xiong clarinet 

Candy Chang flute 

 

Duration: 4:56

This poem uses symbolism to present the idea of something ending while something else is beginning. The clarinet plays the role of something dying or ending and the flute something beginning or being born. The mezzo-soprano presents this concept by singing the text four times. Each time in a higher register with more and longer melismas and fewer words. Her lower register and syllabic text setting at the beginning represents something old and ending or dying. Her higher register and melismatic text setting at the end represent something beginning or being born and starting to live.

The Eagle that is Forgotten 

 

2012

Instrumentation: voice, flute, and two guitars. Text by Vachel Lindsay.

Vachel Lindsay’s poem “The Eagle that is Forgotten” was dedicated to John P. Altgeld (b. 1847 d. 1902). Altgeld was the first Democrat to be elected as the State Governor of Illinois. He participated greatly in the anti-labor act. Some people agreed with Altgeld’s ways, but many

others were against them. Many saw him as an anarchist. This poem was written after Altgeld died. Vachel Lindsay greatly admired Altgeld and used an eagle to symbolize him.

In the poem, Lindsay describes two different kinds of people; those who will remember Altgeld as an enemy and others who will remember him as a hero. The ones who remember him as an enemy will pretend to cry at his funeral. They will look upset on the outside, but will be overjoyed on the inside. The ones who will remember him as a hero will cry at his funeral and mean it, but will be shut out by the many more who were against Altgeld. Despite this strong polarization of the people who were for and against Altgeld, his beliefs will carry on throughout the generations to come.