Dear Man On Fire,

ENS.2010.1 | 7′
Poems by Andrew Michael Roberts
Soprano & Alto Flute, Cor Anglais, Clarinet, Bassoon, 2 Percussion/Speakers, 2 Violas


Dear Man On Fire

This just happened all of a sudden. I had been frustrated for a while, contemplating a larger work of interlocking whirling patterns, but though the sound was in my head I just couldn’t seem to drag it out. Then, late one night after the Superbowl, kept up by noisy parties in adjoining apartments—ok, I would have been up anyway—I sat down at my keyboard and decided to take a look at a couple of tiny ideas I’d jotted down in the past months, and the piece just sort of wrote itself.

Dear Man On Fire, belongs to a group of vocal works like Sky god girl and Amulet where fairly rudimentary musical and formal ideas are allowed to just sort of go where they go according to basic underlying processes. The ensemble designed specially for this work includes a soprano, four richly textured low woodwinds, two violas, and two hand-clappers who also announce the title of each poem as it appears.

Andrew Michael Roberts’s wonderfully brief, lyrical poems are set over two textures alternating over the course of the piece: a sustained, flowing line and a more disjunct, chunky viola organum. These alternate with a repeating instrumental phrase that gradually mutates over the course of the piece. As this simple phrase loops around itself, it shifts continuously in relation to itself. At the beginning there is a seven-beat phrase, which then has its end lopped off to make six-beat, five-beat, and four-beat versions, each heard against each other with a different orchestration and harmonically shifting by one tone at each appearance, so that by the end the original melody has entirely burned away.