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Sequenza21 Concert: Lawrence Dillon’s “Singing silver”

Third installment of a series of Composer Perspectives previewing the November 20th Sequenza21 Concert.

First of all, many thanks to all the people doing the behind-the-scenes work to make the upcoming Sequenza21 concert happen. It’s a daunting task, bringing all of these disparate voices together. I wonder if concertgoers don’t routinely underestimate the headaches that are hidden behind any successful performance.

I’m very curious to hear the music on this concert, having come to know all of the composers a bit online and not at all in person. But I’m uncertain which pieces I will actually be sitting in the audience for. At some point in the evening, I will be on the stage, performing in the premiere of Singing silver with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).

Scored for narrator, soprano, horn, cello and guitar, Singing silver is my latest attempt to combine words and music in a way that fully satisfies the needs of each. The narrator (me) speaks most of the text, with phrases spinning freely off of specific beats in the score. The soprano (Tony Arnold) echoes some of the text, but more often blends wordlessly with the instruments, acting as a connective sinew between the muscle of poetry and the bone of music.

Similarly, the words of Singing silver are the tissue that connects the person I’ve become with the child I once was. We all have rites of passage; mine took place in an autumn dusk, walking home from school, stepping into a busy street for God knows what reason.

Here is the text:

I was crossing the road on an autumn afternoon when a spark in the pavement caught my eye,
sun low in the sky.
I dropped to the ground on one red knee and peered into the black and gold,
as the day grew old.

Sixteen thousand jewels I found shattering the autumn light,
while the air prepared to greet the night.
Sixteen thousand diamonds calling colors to the sky
Sixteen thousand stars and crowns astounding to the eye

But I knew the ones you’d love.

I will bring them home to show to you.
I will bring them home to give to you.
I will bring them home.

I was crossing the road on an autumn afternoon when a lonely tone caught my ear,
a careful keening, strangely near.
I stopped and listened to the sky, sun angled to my right,
clutching at the night.

Sixteen thousand sounds I found shattering the autumn air,
as the day rolled over in bewildered prayer.
Sixteen thousand fragments tumbling through the atmosphere
Sixteen thousand jangled dreams rebounding in the ear

But I knew the ones you’d love.

I will bring them home to show to you.
I will bring them home to give to you.
I will bring them home.

I was crossing the road on an autumn afternoon when a flash of metal spun me round,
and up off the ground.
I thrust my arms out left and right, sun darting under me,
fleeing westerly.

And then I saw him, sitting near, laughing gently at the blurring cars
Singing silver in my ear, like sixteen thousand dangled stars.
Sixteen thousand silent smiles shining in the mist
Sixteen thousand aspirations dancing in his fist.

And I knew that he would love you.

Come home with me, I have someone to show you.
Come home with me, I have someone to give you
Come home.