As a followup to Tuesday’s video of Mary Kaiser reading “He Dreams a Mother,” we present a performance of the score that was inspired by the poem. Written by composer David Clay Mettens, the piece—set for soprano, flute, clarinet, viola, cello, piano, and a range of percussion—was performed live by All of the Above at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center this past spring. The score as well as Mary’s poem also appear in issue 13.1.
Unveiling . . . our YouTube channel! If you were one of those folks who attended the launch of Acre Books at Books by the Banks this past weekend, you saw an extended trailer that included a snippet of an author interview, a visualized poem (voem? pideo?), insight into our process of submission assessment, and a teaser for the live musical performance of one of our art songs. Today, we offer the first episode in a series we call Words Likely to Be Misused or Confused. Though the clip light in tone, we aim to inform as well as to entertain. And hey, there’s a lot more to come: look for a new video every Friday and Tuesday. Huge thanks to Ben Dudley, who made this channel possible by way of both his technical know-how and his comic genius!
Don Bogen: With its score for alto flute, bass clarinet, viola, cello, piano, percussion, and soprano, David Clay Mettens’s setting of Mary Kaiser’s “He Dreams a Mother” in our Summer 2016 issue (just released) is one of the most intricate and haunting pieces in our series of art songs. It’s also the first for which we have a video of the premiere. “Hypnotic” is a word the composer uses several times in the score, and it certainly fits what happened on stage this past April. To watch, click here.
Be sure to check out the subtle performance by All of the Above, with soprano Jilian McGreen and all those varied instruments bringing out the calm yet deeply strange vision in Mary’s poem. The ending is particularly striking. Thanks and congratulations go to the composer, the poet, and the ensemble.
The poem and full score are in the issue. You can find the other four settings we’ve commissioned to date in the art-song category of the blog.
Our art song feature for the spring issue is an extended score of Mary Kaiser’s poem “He Dreams a Mother” by composer David Clay Mettens. We will, of course, post a recording of the score when our spring issue comes out in May—but we’re excited to offer locals the opportunity for a live listening experience. Mettens’s ensemble All of the Above will perform on Thursday, April 28, at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission will be free. For more information, visit cliftonculturalarts.org. We’ll shoot those interested a reminder as the date draws nigh, but mark your calendars!
Composer and poet Kevin Simmonds has provided us with a recording of his setting of C. Dylan Bassett’s poem “The body remembers . . .”. The score is featured in our current issue. As poetry editor Don Bogen writes in his introduction to the piece: “Music, like poetry, doesn’t belong to just the eyes. Both arts find life also in the ears and in the breath—the body remembers, indeed.”
At last we can present the recording of our “art song” offering based on Jakob Stein’s poem “Sefiros” (both published in our Winter 2015 issue). Contributor and musician Claudia Monpere offers her informed and sensitive response to playing Ellen Ruth Harrison’s score.
Claudia Monpere: I love the fusion of music and poetry, but I’ve never been involved in a collaboration of the two arts. After reading the winter 2015 issue of The Cincinnati Review, I sit at the piano and play Ellen Ruth Harrison’s score of Jakob Stein’s poem “Sefiros.” Oh, what a haunting and lovely composition of a deeply moving poem. Since the parts for both violin and soprano are in the treble clef, I experiment, playing the soprano part an octave higher, then trying the violin section an octave lower. I experiment further, sometimes singing the words, other times reading them silently as I play.
The key of A minor is perfect for this elegy, and the music enhances the poem’s emotional intensity. Holocaust images of fire, bones, and ash are juxtaposed with private loss. As my left hand plays the frequent sequences of triplets, the keys accumulate waterfalls of grief. There are no full chords in this piece. Instead, there are double-stops which heighten the mournful quality. I play slowly, very slowly—“In every abandoned chamber of names charred limbs & leaves read by black flame”—until the tempo quickens and the music turns discordant: “bone-known and written in skeletal verse.”
Stein’s language is replete with consonance and assonance. Harrison’s score lingers on some words and phrases, intensifying the music in the language. With those searing final images: “black plume, bottomless chasm, blazing gate,” my right hand strikes the high A hard—forte—a tied note holding on, gripping through another waterfall triplet,falling downward while the left hand fades—pianissimo. Then the final double-stop of D and A, a long tie, echoes of loss, eons of loss. Silence.
Over the summer our lovely subscribers received, along with issue 11.1 (our TEN-tacular number), a bonus music feature, in which we presented Sarah Hutchings’s score for Jeff Gundy’s “March Ode” (published in 2011). In our excitement, however, we . . . er . . . forgot to post a recording of this boisterous bit of music, playfully retitled by Hutchings (who uses only part of the poem in her piece) “Ode to Free Beer.” As Don Bogen writes in his introduction to the feature, “Sarah’s setting captures [the poem] with wit and grace, from the rhythmic opening figure to the bold refrain. An ode is traditionally a poem of praise—and here’s one that has found a fit subject and a new musical voice.”
Click this link to listen: Ode to Free Beer. And look for yet another music feature—Ellen Ruth Harrison’s score for Jakob Stein’s sequence Sefiros—in issue 11.2, due out in December.
The Bad: Paper cuts. Unwieldy tape guns. Sitting on the floor criss-cross applesauce for hours on end. Rapid-onset carpal tunnel.
The Good: Subscribers can look for CR 10.2 to magically appear via the still sprightly and efficient United States Postal Service.
The Wonderful: This issue kicks off our tenth-anniversary year and features the printed score of our first art song, from a poem by Kathleen Winter, “Eve, Seducing the Apple” (CR 4.1), composed by Steve Weimer for Mezzo-Soprano, Viola, Violoncello, and Piano.
As poetry editor Don Bogen writes in 10.2, the printed score is appealing even if you don’t read music: “You can see the poem unfolding among the intricate patterns of notes, directions, and blank spaces on the lines.” So if you don’t have it already, order a copy of the stellar 10.2. When it arrives, if you do read music and happen to have a few string players and a piano on hand, do it up. But just in case your reading skills are confined to the literary, we’ve included a performance recorded last winter from musicians at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. This recording features Mezzo-Soprano Chelsea Duval-Major, Cellist Matt Harman, and Violist Zach Saunders. Enjoy.