Three Hopeless Songs
The "particularly difficult time in my life" referred to in the original
program notes for these pieces was my tenure evaluation and review at
Columbia University. I had been told that I had zero chance of getting
tenure, and asssumed I had washed out of academia. I needed to figure
out what the heck I was going to do for the rest of my life. Pablo
Medina had given me a draft of his new book of poetry; and it totally
amazed me. I really felt he had managed to capture in words the feelings
that I was unable to put into words; I have a tremendous respect for
that talent. I could use sound, however. These pieces acted as a kind
of therapy for me.
As I understand it, Fred Lerdahl worked hard to get my tenure case
reconsidered (yay Fred!), and ultimately I was awarded tenure at
Columbia. I sometimes wonder what life would be like had that not
occurred. No regrets, just curiosity.
The stasis in these pieces is probably reflective of my desire at
the time for a kind of stasis. The distance and alienation of the voices,
well... the bells in the second piece are from a music box that
belonged to Lian or Daniel. The processing of the voice in the third
piece came from an application I had developed with one of our
music theory grad students, Emily Laugeson-Snyder. It was intended
as an FFT analysis tool, but I bent it to process my voice.
Rectangular frames -- nice and crunchy! People also ask me about
the filter I used to get the sound of my voice speaking through a tube
in the middle piece. I spoke through a cardboard tube, and recorded
it. Very high-tech.
These were the first pieces I completed on the SGI Indy. They are among
my favorites. Lots of strong memories are associated with them.