Deep Song, for soprano and twelve cellos. 23' (2014)
Deep Song sets three texts by great Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, along with interludes for twelve cellos alone. The title of the work is a direct translation of cante jondo, an ancient form of Andalusian flamenco singing that inspired Lorca throughout his life.
The three texts, Venus, Noche del amor insomne [Night of Sleepless Love], and Lucía Martínez, exhibit a passionate surrealism blurring the lines between love and obsession, beauty and brutality, the erotic and the violent. Deep Song’s musical material mirrors this “blurring”: the cellos sometimes function as music, presenting recurring motifs, harmonies, and even imitations of the human voice; sometimes, however, their material becomes so “out-of-focus” as to seemingly leave the realm of music and become that of phenomena (wind-like textures, or harmonies so dense they resemble sound-effects). Over it all soars the voice of the soprano, but during moments where she is overcome by the intensity of the ensemble, it is as if she becomes one more degree faceless as well. As the voice becomes merely “another sound”, the instruments become a terrible mass which engulfs and extinguishes her. (There is a resonance here with the tragic biography of Lorca himself, murdered in 1936, who paid for his politics and his sexuality with his life.)
Deep Song moves constantly through stages of icy stasis to feverish motion, and various states of psychological and emotional intensity. At the piece’s conclusion, as the music dissolves for a last time into phenomenal (“scorched”) remnant, the soprano is left voiceless, reduced from person to matter – much like the women in Lorca’s poetry, and even like Lorca himself. “One lone/olive/tree.”
Deep Song was commissioned by and written for for Felicia Chen and Celli@Berkeley.
video. Performers: Ann Moss and Celli@Berkeley (David Milnes, cond.)