Poetic Study (2016)

Premiered by Ally Smither and musicians from the Rice University Shepherd School of Music; Jebat Kee, conductor

I began this piece near the end of my studies at USC, and it was originally meant for six of my friends, all composers, who played together in a Pierrot ensemble. As I was nearing the end of this period of my life, I wanted to reflect on my four years at this school – on my growth as a musician and my relationship with my friends. I had the idea of having the singer represent me in this ensemble of my friends, and setting a text that spoke about music or composition itself. I read through excerpts of several composers’ writings, and eventually settled on two sentences from Stravinsky’s lecture series “Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons,” in which he talks about musical rhetoric and the benefit of limitations in the compositional process. He uses a quote from Baudelaire:

"It is evident that rhetorics and prosodies are not arbitrarily invented tyrannies, but a collection of rules demanded by the very organization of the spiritual being. And never have prosodies and rhetorics kept originality from fully manifesting itself; the contrary, that is to say, that they have aided the flowering of originality, would be infinitely more true."

This piece is through-composed, and I didn’t place many limitations on myself in terms of the form. However, this quote resonated with me because I believe that my compositional style is very dependent on a kind of melodic rhetoric similar to that used in prose.

Ally Smither, soprano
Mark Teplitsky, flute
Thomas Frey, clarinet
Timothy Steeves, violin
Nathan Watts, cello
Wesley Ducote, piano
Lucas Sanchez, marimba