Plastic Robbins Band

ENS.2014.1 | 12′
Poems by Michael Robbins
Soprano, String Quartet


1. My Old Job

2. Dig Dug

3. Welfare Mothers

4. Alien Vs. Predator

5. Second Helping

6. Plastic Robbins Band

I first became aware of Michael Robbins when his controversial review of a book by Robert Hass appeared in Poetry, and although I did not necessarily agree with his opinions I found his approach thoughtful, intelligent, funny, and refreshing in its refusal to kowtow to the mandarins of high art represented by that august publication. I sought out his poetry and immediately decided to put it to music.

Plastic Robbins Band sets six poems from his collection Alien Vs. Predator for soprano and string quartet. The material is deliberately poppy, blocky, colorful, and catchy, but the setting is full of destabilizing elements – quarter tones, glissandos, arpeggios – which together reflect Robbins’s subversion of cliches, catchphrases, stereotypes, and banalities in his frequently hilarious but often also dark and uncomfortable work.

The songs are mostly set in simple verse forms, and the cycle’s overall shape is fast, fast, slow, fast, fast, slow. Plastic Robbins Band was composed in February and June 2014 and lasts around twelve minutes.