requiem

ensemble piano and baritone voice
duration ~5:46
score PDF, 171KB
performance history an earlier version was performed at a Punk-not-Rock salon in Arlington VA in/around 1999/2000
date completed 09/26/2010
era NYC

background

The original title of this piece was “Apotheosis and Transformation” – and that’s about as pretentious as a title can get. I wrote this in 1995 at my grandfather’s house outside of New Orleans. He had passed away the previous October, in that same home.

The original notes are emotional and religious. They were also reflective of my own immaturity at the time, and how formative I viewed those years. The feelings expressed (in the piece and in the notes) are not inauthentic, but they feel almost alien now that they’re so far removed from their origin. The piece remained “finished,” but never sat right with me. This was intended to be about death and love and life and God, but it ended up... different.

It’s a basic song structure, but that’s about where the simplicity ends. This piece is not for solo voice with accompaniment: it’s a duet for voice and piano. Their parts reside in similar keys and work together, but they each have their own individual phrasing. This is not to say that they never work together for effect (and, in fact, they are not drastically separated), but they’re intended to be almost simultaneous solo instruments, equal and at times alternating. For the performers, it’s best to know the other part, but be able to ignore it when necessary. The piano part in particular is a challenge; it has wide voicings and each hand has its own phrases which, also, are not always aligned. Getting the phrases to regenerate and intertwine seamlessly is difficult. In the beginning of the piece, it’s almost as if it’s written for four hands; this gives way to two hands, but more lyric and independent.

I was very (too?) specific in the performance notes, as this excerpt illustrates:

Pedal freely, but only let it really wash notes away in the section that begins at measure 42. There also, the accented whole notes are not volume accents, they’re strength accents. I’m after very solid whole notes, not necessarily really loud ones. Also, notes that are beamed together oddly are phrases (see measure 52 or 65 for good examples of this). Lastly, and very important, I use modern accidentals: the chromatic sign applies to that note only for the entirety of the measure unless otherwise indicated, or unless it is tied over a barline (in which case, if the accidental is to continue, the first untied occurrence of the note will have the chromatic mark). Specifically, if f2 is sharped, then only f2 is affected, NOT all fs in that hand or even all fs in that measure (this accounts for octaves that appear to have only one of the two notes chromatically altered – like the end of measures 53 and 64, for example). Barlines nullify all untied chromatic alterations.

- original performance notes, 1995

This piece lay dormant until 2010, when I revised the vocal line because I finally was honest with myself that the prosody in some key spots really bothered me. As I was also bothered by some triteness in the lyrics and the pretension of the title, I removed some offending words and changed the entire mood of the lyrics in the process. This is still written very much in memory of my late grandfather, but by no means is it a quiet and religious acceptance of the passing of a life. And so I completed and renamed the piece in 2010.

requiem

In sorrow we pray
words that drain the soul
become lines on our tombstones
forever shine to brighten as the sun

When darkness closes in
and even trees fall asleep,
like angels in the sunset
we hide our hearts and weep
for the passing of the day

There are those who believe
there is more to love
and even the most enlightened religion wants to

Have they held the hands
felt the cease and ebb
as breathing becomes conscious
years crumble and melt as one
have they seen it drift away?

Oh, that Life were based on love and love alone
Oh, that we could see beyond the darkness and the light

kyrie eleison, miserere nobis
though you have not seen, do you believe?
only if the Lord believes in me

Fold hands over heart
when finally let go
find solace in the silence
surrounding our hope and fear
with only memories

There are those who believe
there is more to love
than even the most enlightened religion holds true

In the night we pray
words that heal the soul
become lines on our tombstones
forever shine to brighten as the the sun.