ensemble female voice and double bass with looping pedal
text Hart Crane
duration 9 minutes
written winter 2010
commissioned by Maggie Hasspacher
premièred February 18, 2011, Pasadena, CA
published by Andres & Sons Bakery
In the process of planning a new piece for Maggie Hasspacher, my first thought was to react to the extreme registral difference between her two instruments— bass and voice. I started thinking about bridges (suspension, not songwriting). Hart Crane’s famous poem seemed like a good starting point, but I got distracted by his short, early poem My Grandmother’s Love Letters. The penultimate stanza, in particular, caught my attention:
Are your fingers long enough to play
Old keys that are but echoes:
Is the silence strong enough
To carry back the music to its source
And back to you again
As though to her?
A musical metaphor calling out to be set! The strange, intimate, vulnerable combination of double bass and female voice seemed the perfect medium.
The bass texture is augmented using loops— repeating musical phrases and mottoes that are recorded live, repeated, and cut off. The song is bookended by a wandering section with weathered harmonies, carefree and improvisatory at the start, trailing off into quiet, spectral rustling in the end.