This piece was one of the first I wrote that incorporated spoken text. In fact, it may have been the very first, but I’m not going to bother looking that one up to make sure, because firstness is never all that interesting to me, even within my own work.
In the intervening years, I’ve written a number of pieces with spoken text. For the most part, they’ve been very successful. Some of them use spoken text in ways that disrupt normal concert-going expectations, and some of them simply use the text to tell an accompanied story. Measuring their success is a somewhat different exercise in each case.
But there are some poor souls out there who simply can’t abide spoken text with their music. Somehow their brains shut down when presented with these two different forms of expression. I feel badly for these people, because the experience can be a very rich one for those of us who don’t have those insurmountable boundaries.
It’s difficult for me to imagine, but I wonder sometimes if it’s similar to my reaction to spatial music. With only one ear, I find music that relies on particular spatial arrangements kind of dull, because I can’t organize what I’m hearing into specific locations, which seems to be a crucial part of the experience. Maybe that’s what happens to people whose brains can’t process spoken text along with music – maybe the results just sound a little boring.
But I guess I’ll never know, because (when it’s done well) I find the blend of music and spoken word one of the more intense experiences I can have.