American Temple

American Temple

[performed live by the Ludovico Ensemble]
instrumentation :  mezzo-soprano + cello + percussion + piano

2008
duration :  12’20"
written for the Ludovico Ensemble
premiere :  2.16.09 by the Ludovico Ensemble | Boston


        The text to this piece are taken from Alan Lightman’s book “Einstein’s Dreams,” George Albon’s book of poetry titled “A Brief Capital of Disturbances,” and Aquiles la Grave’s poem “Books of Gold.” The texts are mixed together, and none are complete. The music does not follow any textual narrative- partly because there isn’t really a narrative to follow. At some moments I wanted to assign specific musical characteristics to different kinds of text- a sound set for any mention of the body, another for descriptive passages, another for statements about time, etc. I didn’t wholly follow through with this, but I hint at these connections here and there.
        My problem writing this piece was the same as with most others: limiting myself in a creative way. Each word of text carries dozens of potential ways to set it. I tried to write this music from a different perspective- extracting a mood from the text and letting that guide the music. This was a liberating process, and more than ever I felt the need to limit myself. But if I share my rules, listeners will know what to listen for. I always struggle to give my music some unpredictable quality. So I tried to break my own rules, limit myself further, and then go past those limits.
        The title of the piece refers to Dr. Temple Grandin, a researcher in industrial meat production practices. The music’s mood is inspired by learning about her.