ENS.2007.6 | 15′
Text by Edward Gorey
Voice & Piccolo, Bass Clarinet, Marimba, Piano, Violin, Cello
The Admonitory Hippopotamus
Ever since this late, unillustrated text by the great Edward Gorey first appeared in The Paris Review I knew it must be set. Not only did I find it one of the most extraordinary and moving of his works, it was extremely tightly structured, and my composition mirrors that structure precisely. Scored for a Pierrot ensemble plus marimba, The Admonitory Hippopotamus tells the story of Angelica, who is at intervals visited by a floating, spectral hippopotamus that warns her, “Fly at once! All is discovered,” allowing her to make her escape. The same five-part pattern happens seven times in the text, and the music follows this form. First, all five musical ideas are presented one after another, each corresponding to a page of the text. Then each of the next five sections concentrates on those five ideas in order, followed by a ghostly reminiscence of the opening. Every time the hippopotamus appears the plump vocal line is the same, but harmonized differently. The Admonitory Hippopotamus is mostly very energetic, with intricately interlocking polyphonic rhythms—often in complex simultaneous meters—driving the music forward until a quiet, mournful coda completes the piece.