Excerpts from Powers of Two

IN MEMORIAM A.H.H. (1999)
for tenor, baritone and tape
Sound Example available; Score
___________________

HYMN TO THE MOON (1997)
THE GOLDEN AGE
for alto or mezzo and tape
Sound Example available; Score
________________________

BEYOND (1997)
for baritone and tape
Sound Example available; Score
_______________________

SONNET TO ORPHEUS
for soprano and tape
Sound Example available; Score

In Memoriam A.H.H., Hymn to the Moon, Beyond and Sonnet to Orpheus are excerpts of the electroacoustic opera Powers of Two. In Act 1, a duet (a setting of one of 131 stanzas written by Tennyson in memory of his friend, Arthur Hallam) is sung by the two male characters, one gay, the other straight; however, in keeping with the "twin souls" theme, the recorded version is performed by the same singer doing both parts, and is followed by a solo using a Whitman text from Leaves of Grass which also celebrates male bonding. The Hymn to the Moon and The Golden Age are sung in Act 2 by the Sibyl in celebration of female powers. Beyond opens Act 4 where the male singer appears to have passed into another realm beyond our reality, yet longs for his lover.

The Sonnet to Orpheus closes Act 1 of the opera Powers of Two. Through Rilke's sonnet, the soprano sings of her longing for the ideal lover who she calls Orpheus, even as she is frustrated by the base desires of her actual lover. The poem expresses her longing for a spiritual epiphany.

Other excerpts from the opera are the four Love Songs from Powers of Two: The Artist, for tenor, tape and video.

The first two excerpts are available on the Cambridge Street Records CD Twin Souls; the complete opera is available on Powers of Two.

IN MEMORIAM A.H.H.

Thy voice is on the rolling air;

I hear thee where the waters run;

Thou standest in the rising sun,

And in the setting thou art fair.

 

What art thou then? I cannot guess;

But tho' I seem in star and flower

To feel thee some diffusive power,

I do not therefore love thee less:

 

My love involves the love before;

My love is vaster passion now;

Tho' mixed with God and Nature thou,

I seem to love thee more and more.

 

Far off thou art, but ever nigh;

I have thee still, and I rejoice;

I prosper, circled with thy voice;

I shall not lose thee tho' I die.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson: In Memoriam A.H.H., CXXX

 

Dear friend whoever you are take this kiss,

I give it especially to you, do not forget me,

An unknown sphere more real than I dream'd, more direct

darts awakening rays about me, So long!

Remember my words, I may again return,

I love you, I depart from materials,

I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.

Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass, Songs of Parting (1860)

 

To the Seer I will go,

His disembodied mind will show me

The path my art must take

To reach my rejected love.


HYMN TO THE MOON
Sleep now. Sleep now and dream,

Your beloved will come to you there.

The stars will sing you to sleep

And the moon shall guide your love.

 

Thou silver deity of secret night,

Direct my footsteps through the woodland shade;

Thou conscious witness of unknown delight,

The lover's guardian, and the Muse's aid!

By thy pale beams I solitary rove,

To thee my tender grief confide;

Serenely sweet you gild the silent grove,

My friend, my goddess, and my guide.

E'en thee, fair queen, from the amazing height,

The charms of young Endymion drew;

Veiled with the mantle of concealing night,

With all thy greatness, and thy coldness too.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762): Hymn to the Moon


THE GOLDEN AGE

Aaaaheeeh, aaaaheeeh,

        I am the voice of the ages,

        The teller of visions,

        The Mother of mothers,

        And the memory of life.

        Aaaaheeeh, aaaaheeeh.


        I remember,

        I remember and tell of a Golden Age,

        The Golden Age of long ago,

        The story I must give to you.


            Blest Golden Age! When ev'ry Purling Stream

            Ran undisturbed and clear,

            When an Eternal Spring drest ev'ry Bough

            And Blossoms fell, by new ones dispossest;

            When Silver Waves o'er Shining Pebbles curl'd;

            Or when young Zephirs fan'd the Gentle Breez,

            Gath'ring fresh Sweets from Balmy Flow'rs and Trees,

            Then bore 'em on their Wings to perfume all the Air:


    (Aside)    I must go on

        But evening comes,

        And a daughter I must find

        To tell this story to.


            Then no rough sound of Wars Alarms

            Had taught the World the needless use of Arms;

            The stubborn Plough had then,

            Made no rude Rapes upon the Virgin Earth;

            Who yeilded of her own accord her plentious Birth;

            Without the Aids of men;

            As if within her Teeming Womb,

            All Nature, and all Sexes lay,

            Whence new Creations every day

            Into the happy World did come.


    (Aside) My daughter I must find

        To tell this story to.


            Be gone! And let the Golden age

            Resume its Glorious Reign;

            The Spring decays, but when the Winter's gone,

            The Trees and Flowers a new come on.

            But Sylvia when your Beauties fade,

            When the fresh Roses on your Cheeks shall die,

            Like Flowers that wither in the Shade,

            Eternally they will forgotten lye,

            And no kind Spring their sweetness shall supply

            When Snow shall on those lovely Tresses lye,

            And your fair Eyes no more shall give us pain,

            But shoot their pointless Darts in vain.

            Then let us Sylvia yet be wise,

            And the Gay hasty minutes prize:

            The Sun and Spring receive but our short Light,

            Once sett, a sleep brings an Eternal Night.

                      Aphra Behn (1640-89): The Golden Age


BEYOND

Eeeeh, eeeeh ....

I do not see, I cannot breathe.

Nothing is there for my eyes to grasp

And I no longer exist

... no eye, not I ....

It is strange to no longer live on the earth,

to abandon one's habits, so recently acquired,

to no longer give to the rose

the significance of a human future;

to no longer be that which with endlessly trembling hands

one once was, and to have even one's name

drop away like a broken toy.

It is strange to no longer wish for things,

to see all that once had substance, connection,

flutter about so freely in space. And yes, it is tiring

to be dead, filled with recollection,

until gradually one might sense

a piece of eternity.

R. M. Rilke: Duino Elegy I (trans. by Norbert Ruebsaat)

 

Miranda, is it you,

Or are you only in my dreams?

I need to see if you are real

And bring you to my arms.

 

Music, which tunes the soul for love

And stirs up all our soft desires,

Does but the growing flame improve

Which pow'rful Beauty first inspires.

 

Thus, whilst with art she plays and sings,

I to Miranda, standing by,

Impute the music of the strings

And all the melting words apply.

Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661-1720)

 


SONNET TO ORPHEUS

A god may do it. Say, though, how shall a man

pass through the lyre's narrow opening?

His sense is division. At the crossing of two

heartways Apollo's temple does not rise.

 

Song, as you teach it, is not desire,

not the urge for a final slender achievement;

Song is existence. The god sings with ease.

When, though, will we exist? And when will he turn

 

the earth and the stars in our direction?

You do not love this, oh youth, although

your voice bursts open your lips - learn

 

to forget that you once sang out. It passes.

To sing in the truth is a different order of breath.

An order around nothing. A moan in the god. A wind.

R. M. Rilke, The Sonnets To Orpheus, First Series, 3

translated by Norbert Ruebsaat)


Technical note

The work was realized using the composer's PODX system which incorporates the DMX-1000 Digital Signal Processor controlled by a PDP Micro-11 computer with software for real-time granular synthesis and signal processing (such as digital resonators) developed by the composer in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University. The sounds were recorded on 8-track digital tape and the AudioBox, and mixed in the Sonic Research Studio at SFU.

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