An epic setting of two poems of nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska.

Duration: 23’ 

Year of completion: 2004

Voices: tenor, baritone, chorus

Orchestra: picc22(Bcl)22Cbn 4231 hp 3perc timp strings

Commissioned by the California Symphony and premiered by the Symphony with the Baroque Choral Guild and vocal soloists Anton Belov and Kevin Gibbs in May of 2004.

Excerpt from Acrobat:

Excerpt from Discovery

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Program Note:

It is rare to find contemporary poems that speak for humanity and for mankind as a whole.  To me, the beginning of a work for such large forces as vocal soloists, chorus, and orchestra meant first finding a text that would speak in a large way about big issues and could take a stand on a large stage.  This ruled out the majority of the poetry that I had set aside for future musical settings that were delicate and personal.  It was with the finding of the poem Discovery by Wislawa Szymborska, a poem that immediately stunned me, that I had the beginnings of a new, large work.  This poem that speaks about big issues, presents us with a moral challenge facing all of humanity. It speaks of a profound moral dilemma surrounding the destructive power that our age of unabated technological progress has given to us. 

There is a painful irony to the work since there is no true solution like the one that is testified to in the poem. This is clearly drawn out in the closing line, “My faith is strong, blind, and without foundation.”  We are left with the unbearable nature of conceiving of nuclear calamity or any other number of challenges that our science has brought to us, but there is absolutely no turning away from the responsibility we now hold—a burden that is beyond our imagination.  Discovery confronts us with this burden by clearly pointing out the moral fault lines that our scientific exploration dances upon. 

In my setting of the poem, I have used the Baritone soloist to be the principle presenter of the text while the chorus comes in and out to add emphasis, depth, and power.  I like to think of the many singers as something akin to the Greek chorus, the masses, the presentation of ‘us’ on stage.  To me, the soloist is the voice of the poet, the individual, the one who sees more clearly. 

To counter balance the drama of Discovery, I use a feathery, joyful work of Szymborska, the poem Acrobat.   What I love about this pairing is that both poems deal with the amazing talents of the human endeavor.  While Discovery deals with the dark side of human accomplishment, Acrobat celebrates the beauty and the grace of humanity as seen through a single solitary acrobat, “beautiful beyond belief.”   In this movement, the text is sung by a solo tenor without chorus.  I wanted this movement to be projected by the lonely, wonderful individual, and stunning performer.