I Love was the direct result of a wonderful residency at Illinois Wesleyan University in March 2017, when I was invited as Featured Guest Composer for their annual Symposium of Contemporary Music an annual tradition since 1952! The residency included a concert of my music, a performance of Black Moon (orchestra + electronics) by their excellent student orchestra led by conductor Lev Ivanov, meetings with classes and individual students, and a colloquium, with program details here. The concert included a beautifully prepared performance of Hark My Love, an SATB setting of verses from the Song of Songs. Conductor J. Scott Ferguson led the Collegiate Chorale in the performance, and immediately following he asked if I would consider a commission for a new piece. I responded enthusiastically, and the process was set in motion. This annual commissioning project has also been in place since 195, and is called the Sylvia Monty Anderson commissioned choral work fund honoring Delta Omicron at Illinois Weslyan University.
As always, my first step was to find a text – and finally/suddenly came upon Gertrude Stein’s poem Before the Flowers of Friendship Faded, Friendship Faded. There is quite a story behind this poem. Apparently, Stein had planned to translate a poem by her friend Georges Hugnet. Her plan did not go as anticipated, and she wrote a new poem based on his. He was not happy about this and indeed their friendship faded. The poem consists of 30 stanzas of which I chose to set number XXIX. I chose the title I love as these are the first words of the poem and it is indeed about love, though of course in Stein’s inimitable way. I was especially drawn to this verse due to its charming whimsy, it’s sudden twists and it’s linguistic and syntactic play.
The next step was to obtain permission to use the text of this one verse. This was managed with the assistance of Mr. Stanford Gann, Jr. of Levin & Gann, P.A., representative of the Stein Estate in the US. I started composing it in the summer of 2017 while I was driving to the CubeFest festival at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg VA. The words were forming rhythms in my mind’s ear, and since I was alone in my car, I started singing them – loudly! I was also experimenting with individual sounds as you can hear in the opening and elsewhere, with repeated ‘L’ sounds. When I sent the finished score to Scott, he told me that he laughed aloud as he read through it. He and the Collegiate Chorale toured the before the final performance at Illinois Weslyan university, where I returned for a brief residency and attended the premiere.