Plain Song

Plain Song, performed by Seung-Hye Kim

Instrumentation: Piano and electronics
Duration: 12:00
Premiere: 10/16/15
TechnoSonics XVI, Music and Contemplation
University of Virginia
Old Cabell Auditorium
Charlottesville, VA

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Program Note:
One day, while driving my car, listening to NPR, I heard a voice say “Live life as though you were already dead, Che Guevara declared.” My responses, seemingly simultaneous were: “fantastic line,” and “wait, I know that voice – it’s Charles!” As luck would have it, I knew Charles Wright. While we both taught at UVA, we met as fellows at the Rockefeller Center at Bellagio in 1990 and became friends over the years. With trepidation, I asked if he would consider recording some poems for me to set. He agreed, and I chose four poems from his most recent book, CARIBOU.

We had a fine time recording at The Sound studio in Charlottesville. Mark Graham was the sound engineer and composer Joe Adkins assisted. I decided to compose Plain Song, named for one of the four poems, and scored the piece for piano and electronics made from the recordings of his readings. These poems deal with loss and death, and at the same time, with gratitude and life. They reflect his wide-ranging interests, from ancient Chinese poetry to country music! I am grateful to Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, LLC, for permission to use these four poems: “Plain Song,” “Lullaby,” “Shadow and Smoke” and “I’ve Been Sitting Here Thinking Back Over My Life.”

The movement names are

  1. Plain Song
  2. Lullaby
  3. Shadow and Smoke
  4. Tutta Gloria

Plain Song is dedicated to Charles Wright. All of the poems are © 2014, Charles Wright, All Rights Reserved.

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