Symphony for Richard Serra

ENS.2014.6 | 14′
Text by Richard Serra
4 Sopranos


1. to roll

2. to curve

3. to scatter

4. to modulate

I am a great admirer of Richard Serra’s work, and his famous “verb list” of 1967-68, which describes a multitude of ways things can be done to other things, seemed an excellent vehicle to pay tribute to his extraordinary influence, not only on my work but on pretty much everybody’s.

Ostensibly the sixth in my ongoing series of “pocket symphonies”, Symphony for Richard Serra differs from its predecessors not only in that it is composed for voices rather than instruments, but it for the first time (roughly) approximates classical symphonic form! The first movement is a kind of allegro, the second a slow movement, the third a scherzo, and the last a finale. Sort of.

In the opening movement, to roll, the four sopranos alternate articulating highly rythmicized settings of each phrase. The second, to curve, is more meditative, drifting phrases gently overlapping. In the scherzo, to scatter, various contrasting little things are scattered here and there, each suddenly erupting from its predecessor, while the finale, to modulate, recalls and destabilizes ideas from each of the previous movements while also incorporating a few new things.

Although the first half of Symphony for Richard Serra was completed in December 2014, it took two years and numerous abandoned attempts before I figured out how to deal with the rest of the piece, and the 14-minute composition was (finally) completed in November 2016.