The Writing of a Cantata #1

After a few days of rest for the holidays, I find myself completely (and happily) overwhelmed with texts… I started working on two vocal projects that involve poetry and prose. The first is a short song cycle for soprano that should be premiered in March or April, and the second is my master’s thesis: a secular cantata.

The song cycle is the first piece that I base on poetry by a living (or under copyright) poet. So far, I’ve had to find poetry that was published prior to 1923 to avoid any kind of permission requests, but this time, I really wanted to use these poems and I decided to ask the poet. I was glad to receive a positive answer, but I was still very unclear about the performing/publishing rights, and an article from NewMusicBox by Stephen Paulus (via Ralph Jackson) really helped! The poetry appeared first in Poetry magazine, and I was delighted to learn from the Permissions Coordinator that the poets that are published in their magazine retain their rights! Note for later… keep on renewing my subscription!

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, The Heart of The New Thought (1902)

The second piece will be considerably longer and will also require more time to prepare the text. I’m using a variety of sources, from Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s Heart Of The New Thought (1902) and New thought pastels (1906), to Thoreau’s Walden and Herbert Markuse’s One-Dimensional Man. I will also probably use Flarf poetry and Spoetry that I generated through text algorithms. I was lucky to be at the 92nd Street Y, on October 6th, 2008—a week before the premiere of Doctor Atomic at the Met—where John Adams discussed his literary sources. I was fascinated by his approach (well, his and Peter Sellars’!), and I think that it still influences me in the way I try to mix and match poetry, prose… and spam emails!

Here’s a 14min excerpt of this discussion with Ara Guzelimian:

John Adams and Ara Guzelimian on Doctor Atomic