Stone Seeking Warmth (2013)
Commissioned by the American Composers Forum with funds from the Jerome Foundation.
Premiered November 15, 2013 by Jon English, James Tapia, and the Syracuse University Symphony Orchestra
(tenor, chamber orchestra)
Conceived in 2012 and completed in 2013, Stone Seeking Warmth is a five movement work that tells the story of losing and rediscovering one’s sense of self. Though written as a standard song-cycle for voice and chamber orchestra, the through narrative creates the impression of a monodrama, in which character development is as integral a part of the piece as the music and text.
The opening movement finds our protagonist in a relationship; confident, bordering on the edge of cocky, he taunts the impending darkness:
Let night come
with it’s austere grandeur,
ancient superstitions and fears.
We’ll put some music on,
open the curtains, let things darken
as they will.
In the subsequent movements, our protagonist enters this darkness. The second movement is a schizophrenic sound world that teeters between violence and sweetness as the singer wars with himself, desperate to fend off the world, willing to offer it no more than a ‘closed mouth kiss.’ This violence is answered by the stillness of the third movement, though it is a frigid, fragile stillness. The singer laments the unquenchable natures of his desires, the conflict between the soul’s desire for some ‘faraway outpost’ and the loneliness of this landscape until he finally relents and requests ‘Be sweet to me, world.’ In the eponymous fourth movement the singer finally comes to terms with his loneliness, first with anger, then with melancholy. After eviscerating himself with his long list of faults, he cries ‘it’s possible my soul is made of schist.’ After the orchestra reaches the musical climax, the protagonist finally, if hesitantly, opens himself to world.
I don’t care if you’re in collusion with the wind.
Come in, there’s nothing here
but solitude and me. I wouldn’t mind
being diminished one caress at a time.
In the final movement our protagonist has arrived. Built on a A drone, this a reference to both my own work, Toward Nightfall, and to Franz Schubert’s Der Doppelgänger. The work contains several other musical allusions to Toward Nightfall, my own work that taunted the impending darkness, until the protagonist finally opens himself to the world, ending with the affirmation:
To go forward, I feel,
is to go together now. There’s a place
I’d like to arrive by nightfall.