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The Pieces That Fall to Earth

The Pieces That Fall to Earth

for high soprano and chamber orchestra

Text by Kay Ryan


  • Instrumentation: high soprano and chamber orchestra
  • Edition: performance material
  • Language: English

 
Description
When casting about for a text for my new piece for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, my list of re-quirements seemed almost irreconcilable. I already knew I needed something lyrical, imagistic, and (most importantly) short. In addition, I wanted the text to have a connection to California, and Los Angeles in particular. As my search progressed fruitlessly, a friend recommended the poetry of Los Angeles native (and long time Bay Area resident) Kay Ryan. Her complete poems fit into a single 200 page book, and they were rarely longer than a single, sparsely populated page. They immediately inspired me as I read through them, and the opening song (the eponymous “The Pieces that Fall to Earth”) began to take shape in my head immediately. However Kay Ryan’s poems aren’t just short, they’re very short—some no more than 20 words. Therefore, I needed to find a way to create a large-scale architecture, rather than a set of minia-tures. My solution was to mirror my own reading process of the poems. Some of them—“Hope” and “Sharks’ Teeth”—I read quickly, absorbing the meaning in a single pass. The resultant songs are short, just over a minute each. In others, like “Insult” and “The Woman Who Wrote Too Much”, I obsessed over specific phrases, reading them aloud over and over again. “The Pieces that Fall to Earth” and “That Will to Divest” were complex and ambiguous, and seemed to ask for multiple readings to glean their meaning. In setting those, I repeated the complete text multi-ple times, with multiple musical interpretations. Together, the seven songs form a kind of monodrama wherein the work becomes progressively more and more personal. The first three songs are in the third person, projecting an emotional distance. In the fourth song, the second person appears—“You aren’t swept up whole.” In the sixth song, “Insult,” the song approaches the first person in the plural “We need action to remind us.” Only in the last song, “The Woman Who Wrote Too Much,” does I finally appear. The other major factor in composing The Pieces That Fall to Earth was the extraordinary voice of Hila Plitmann, whose dexterity and range I knew I could put to great expressive use. My own vo-cal writing tends towards the austere: lyrical and mostly syllabic. In The Pieces I tried to actively expand my vocabulary to include melismatic lines (as in “Swept Up Whole”) and well as ex-tremes of range and virtuosity (“That Will To Divest,” and “Insult”). The Pieces that Fall to Earth was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and lasts ap-proximately twenty minutes. Hila and John share the dedication of the piece with several com-poser friends who have deeply inspired me. Christopher Cerrone
Details
Auftragswerk : Commissioned by Los Angeles Philharmonic
Content text: I The Pieces that Fall to Earth
II Hope
III That Will to Divest
IV Swept Up Whole
V Sharks’ Teeth - VI Insult
VII The Woman Who Wrote Too Much
Performance duration: 20'0"
Publisher: Schott Music Corporation
Uraufführung : 26. Mai 2015 Los Angeles, CA, Walt Disney Concert Hall (USA) · Hila Plitmann, soprano · Dirigent: John Adams · Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group
Year of composition: 2015
instrumentation: 1.1(bcl).1(ca).1-1.0.1.0-2perc(I. mar [5 oct, ossia for 4.3 oct], crot, tam-t, guiro, sandblock, lg sus cym, tri, tibetan singing bowl [G#5]; II. vib, glsp, guiro, med sus cym, sizzle cym, sandblock, guiro, tri)-pno.hp-vn.va.vc.db
Delivery rights: worldwide
Performances
Conductor: Gemma New
Orchestra: Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra
2019-05-23 | Hamilton,ON (United States of America), First Ontario Concert Hall
Conductor: Chris Belt
Orchestra: Alterity Chamber Orchestra
2018-03-22 | Orlando, FL (United States of America), Orlando Ballet Company Studio
Conductor: John Adams
Orchestra: Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group
2015-05-26 | Los Angeles, CA (United States of America), Walt Disney Concert Hall | World Premiere
When casting about for a text for my new piece for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, my list of re-quirements seemed almost irreconcilable. I already knew I needed something lyrical, imagistic, and (most importantly) short. In addition, I wanted the text to have a connection to California, and Los Angeles in particular. As my search progressed fruitlessly, a friend recommended the poetry of Los Angeles native (and long time Bay Area resident) Kay Ryan. Her complete poems fit into a single 200 page book, and they were rarely longer than a single, sparsely populated page. They immediately inspired me as I read through them, and the opening song (the eponymous “The Pieces that Fall to Earth”) began to take shape in my head immediately. However Kay Ryan’s poems aren’t just short, they’re very short—some no more than 20 words. Therefore, I needed to find a way to create a large-scale architecture, rather than a set of minia-tures. My solution was to mirror my own reading process of the poems. Some of them—“Hope” and “Sharks’ Teeth”—I read quickly, absorbing the meaning in a single pass. The resultant songs are short, just over a minute each. In others, like “Insult” and “The Woman Who Wrote Too Much”, I obsessed over specific phrases, reading them aloud over and over again. “The Pieces that Fall to Earth” and “That Will to Divest” were complex and ambiguous, and seemed to ask for multiple readings to glean their meaning. In setting those, I repeated the complete text multi-ple times, with multiple musical interpretations. Together, the seven songs form a kind of monodrama wherein the work becomes progressively more and more personal. The first three songs are in the third person, projecting an emotional distance. In the fourth song, the second person appears—“You aren’t swept up whole.” In the sixth song, “Insult,” the song approaches the first person in the plural “We need action to remind us.” Only in the last song, “The Woman Who Wrote Too Much,” does I finally appear. The other major factor in composing The Pieces That Fall to Earth was the extraordinary voice of Hila Plitmann, whose dexterity and range I knew I could put to great expressive use. My own vo-cal writing tends towards the austere: lyrical and mostly syllabic. In The Pieces I tried to actively expand my vocabulary to include melismatic lines (as in “Swept Up Whole”) and well as ex-tremes of range and virtuosity (“That Will To Divest,” and “Insult”). The Pieces that Fall to Earth was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and lasts ap-proximately twenty minutes. Hila and John share the dedication of the piece with several com-poser friends who have deeply inspired me. Christopher Cerrone
Auftragswerk : Commissioned by Los Angeles Philharmonic
Content text: I The Pieces that Fall to Earth
II Hope
III That Will to Divest
IV Swept Up Whole
V Sharks’ Teeth - VI Insult
VII The Woman Who Wrote Too Much
Performance duration: 20'0"
Publisher: Schott Music Corporation
Uraufführung : 26. Mai 2015 Los Angeles, CA, Walt Disney Concert Hall (USA) · Hila Plitmann, soprano · Dirigent: John Adams · Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group
Year of composition: 2015
instrumentation: 1.1(bcl).1(ca).1-1.0.1.0-2perc(I. mar [5 oct, ossia for 4.3 oct], crot, tam-t, guiro, sandblock, lg sus cym, tri, tibetan singing bowl [G#5]; II. vib, glsp, guiro, med sus cym, sizzle cym, sandblock, guiro, tri)-pno.hp-vn.va.vc.db
Delivery rights: worldwide
Conductor: Gemma New
Orchestra: Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra
2019-05-23 | Hamilton,ON (United States of America), First Ontario Concert Hall
Conductor: Chris Belt
Orchestra: Alterity Chamber Orchestra
2018-03-22 | Orlando, FL (United States of America), Orlando Ballet Company Studio
Conductor: John Adams
Orchestra: Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group
2015-05-26 | Los Angeles, CA (United States of America), Walt Disney Concert Hall | World Premiere