I’ve just had the lovely news that a song cycle I wrote back in 1998 is getting a belated premiere at the New England Conservatory in March.  Tenor Christopher Smith, an intrepid soul if there ever was one, will give the first performance of my Dog Songs, an affectionate parody of Romantic song cycles.

(You may think I am using the adjective “intrepid” facetiously, until I tell you that Christopher has started his own opera company this season.  If that’s not fearless, I don’t know what is.)

Some people are cat people; some people are dog people.  In keeping with a general preference for inclusiveness, I’m a bit of both.  This piece was a chance to use my intimate acquaintance over many years with a number of four-legged friends to poke some good-natured fun at a hoary tradition.  A dog takes us through his day – waking up, going to the vet, musing on the nature of life, and finding romance in the great outdoors.  Typical of the cycle’s blend of parody, profundity and profanity is this text from the third song:

PHILOSOPHER’S SONG

When you rub my back,

I forget where we are.

When you rub my head,

I forget what I do.

When you rub my throat,

I forget who I am,

if I am anything.

Oh, then you stop,

and I come back,

and I remember.

And then I wonder

where I’ve been,

And then I wonder

why I’m here,

And then I wonder

who I am,

if I am anything.

And I look up and wonder

Who are you?

And where did you come from?

And what do you want from me?

And how did I get here?

Was I made in your image?

Did you find me in the road?

Did you buy me from a breeder?

Will you bury me one day

and buy another?

When I think about these things I feel so small.

But then you reach down and rub my neck again,

and I forget.

Not all of the cycle is thusly text-laden.  In the first song, “Morning,” the tenor takes four minutes to sing a single sentence:

Oh, it’s so hard to get out of bed.

As the saying goes, write what you know.

3 Responses to “Dog Songs”
  1. Janet says:

    Will you be in attendance?

  2. Lawrence Dillon says:

    Good question. The exact date hasn’t been set yet. I’m already booked March 1-12, 17-21 and 26-28. If I can get to Boston I will, but it doesn’t look good at this point.

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