Dr. Farnsworth, A Chiropodist, Lived In Ohio, Where He Wrote Only The First Lines Of Poems

ENS.120 | 8.2.10-8.8.10 | 7’
Solo Bass Voice, Euphonium, Timpani, Harp, Cello

Midi Rendition of “Dr. Farnsworth…”

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Dr. Farnsworth, A Chiropodist, Lived In Ohio, Where He Wrote Only The First Lines Of Poems
Poem by Tom Andrews from “Random Symmetries: The Collected Poems”

I couldn’t get to sleep one night, as usual, and I plucked a book off my shelves to pick at, which turned out to be Tom Andrews’s Collected Poems, Random Symmetries. I’d bought it years ago because Charles Wright (a favorite of mine) recommended it and had written the introduction, but I’d never actually read any of it. I opened the volume at random to the poem about Dr. Farnsworth and immediately I had my next piece.

The most important first step for me when beginning a composition is finding the right sound world. I started with what has lately become my default ensemble, high voice with english horn, clarinet, bassoon and harp, but this didn’t seem quite right. Wind instruments have to breathe, and I wanted something that could play continuous lines, so I added a cello. The cello needed a partner, something rounder than those woodwinds, so I thought about trombone before deciding a euphonium with its valves would be better. The final piece of the puzzle fell into place when I rejected a marimba but wanted something equally woody, and I realized: timpani! Haven’t used those in about a decade, and they’re so great. Dr. Farnsworth seemed to call for a low voice, and I’d never really done anything for bass, so it became an abyssal ensemble, but not without warmth and a little humor, I hope.

This piece intends to evoke Dr. Farnsworth in his study, working late into the night on his truncated poems. The ensemble should have the sound of wood paneling and brandy and leather upholstery, comfortable and rich, as he sings quietly to himself in the dark.