Fizz & Ginger [ 2018-2020 ]
for mixed voices
& small jazz ensemble
Fizz & Ginger is a bath-tub-gin, prohibition, song cycle for mixed voices and small jazz ensemble accompaniment set in New York City's speakeasies of the roaring '20s. Bootleggers, mischief, and mayhem abound in this semi-staged, theatrical, and immersive work. Creative team Whitney George and Brittnay Goodwin started the work in 2018 just before being commissioned a full-length opera, Princess Maleine, with the DellArte Opera Ensemble. After putting that work on creative pause, the infamous arm-crossing duo are back at it to bring you an enthralling work with timeless themes of finding yourself, and your passion amidst opposition and against all odds. Our story follows an unlikely cast of characters brought together to enjoy New York's underground scene, the speakeasy, and through the retellings of their different experiences, we realize these unacquainted folks might have more in common than they originally thought. While the work can be presented as a work of theater, songs can also be presented alone, without their narrative contexts. The current songs in this work-in-progress include:
The Way We Were
Send Always (My Love, Your Love)
When Nights are Bold
A premiere performance of the work in full is tentatively scheduled for the 2020 season—check the CALENDAR page for more details
Lost Without You [ 2018 ]
for soprano, bass clarinet, viola, 'cello
piano, percussion, & electronics
Lost Without You, for voice and chamber ensemble, is a rumination and meditation on the inner dialogue we have with ourselves as individuals, and our constant negotiation/renegotiation of "the self". Created from the female perspective, the work makes use of live processing (in the form of additive and subtractive loops) to create the feeling of being in the headspace of the performer, or the narrator/story teller.
Written for the female voice, the text slowly gains greater momentum and form—what originally appears as fragments becomes coherent thoughts at the end of the piece. Fragments of text used throughout the work accumulates to a final meaning at the end of the work—giving us the feeling that the narrator's identity is made up of the experiences she recalls. Lost Without You is a statement of the impact of the words of others and the impact of the words we speak to ourselves
Out of Darkness [ 2018 ]
for soprano, oboe/english horn,
piano & electronics
Out of Darkness is a mutli-movement song cycle for soloist (tripling as a soprano, oboe, and English horn player) and piano. Each movement, while it can stand on its own, gains greater meaning when paired with other selections from the cycle. The text traces a variety of very basic, root emotions through texts that, upon first reading, I would have described as "earthy". The language is simple, incantational, and personal, yet is expressed as a public message, in front of an audience.
We might feel like voyeurs upon seeing such honest expression and genuine concern with the performer trying to link all of the very special, sonic events into a cauldron all at once to make what are only two voices seem like a world onto themselves. Each movement is named after an important fragment of the text, or moment in the music, acting like a ring in a tree: a significant mark of growth, empowerment, and learning—
I. In the beginning
II. fitted into wood, burned
III. o hunger
IV. to hide your own heartbeat
V. if you wake me tonight
VI. so too is my body
VII. before lighting you to fire
Leela, our narrator lives in both the past and the present and we can see her distinct form in the future: the representation of the circular nature of life, which continues on from the budding of a blossom to the decay of her petals.
In New York [ 2017 ]
for tenor & piano
In New York was the first-prize winner in Sparks and Wry Cry's songSLAM contest in 2017, New York. This comedic song for tenor and piano features original music by Whitney George, and lyrics by Johnny Call:
The first time I came to New York,
The first time I came to New York
it was snowing at JFK.
I got my stuff from baggage claim five
after posting some selfies in the airport
to let people know where I was.
The concrete jungle,
The Empire State,
the big Apple itself.
I dropped my things at my air BnB
and set out among the old stones and the history.
Towering steeples, man made tunnels, thunderous cars.
I took a water taxi so I could see her:
lady liberty herself.
But it turns out you need special permission to walk on the island.
So I went to the Empire State Building to go on the roof.
But it costs twenty-five dollars and you have to buy your tickets in advance.
So I walked around The City instead.
The food in Hell's Kitchen.
The shopping in Soho.
The lights of Broadway.
And suddenly I was there, the crossroads of the world itself.
The hustle, the bustle.
So many different faces.
Some busy, some lingering.
I took a photo for a nice older couple
from someplace called Weehauken.
Never heard of it.
The sun was long set,
and it started to snow again.
I felt such joy in my new locale
that I spread my arms wide
among a crowd of people and exclaimed
"I'm in New York!"
What happened next I'll never forget.
A homeless man shouted back
"Shut the fuck up!"
You Who Never Arrived [ 2016 ]
for soprano, flute/alto flute
french horn, & piano
You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,I don't even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of the next
moment. All the immense
images in me—the far-off, deeply-felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and un-suspected turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods—all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.
You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open window
in a country house—, and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me. Streets that I chanced upon,—
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled, gave back
my too-sudden image. Who knows? perhaps the same
bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening...
I fondly remember being introduced to the poetry of Rilke by a bruiting man with dark and wild hair who loved the written word, creating things crudely with his hands, and being swept up all of the beautiful and destructive things that art can mimic. We didn't know each other for long and, like the unpredictable changing of the tide, left almost as soon as he had entered by life. But, among our brief moments together, he recited You Who Never Arrived to me from memory in some strange moment of passion—and being so moved by it, I hunted it down the following day and committed it to writing in my notebook—something I carry around with me as a constant companion. And since then I've written it in almost every notebook that I've kept—it's a text I continue returning to—in an attempt to continue unraveling it. And even though it was something that was still revealing itself to me, pedal by pedal, it's a text I wanted to set to music—to try and understand through music—but the problem with amazing poetry is that it's already music all on its own. It already has a rhythm, set cadences, and a way of presenting itself on the page—who was I to disturb that—? After a few attempts that were started and left incomplete, I abandoned it, hoping that one day I would eventually return to it—it wasn't the right time.
Discussing You Who Never Arrived in more formal discourse would be a disservice to the piece—and it's something that had such emotional impact when I first was exposed to it that I struggle to put words to it, which I've rambled on about how I stumbled upon it in the first place. In fact, part of the charm is the struggle in trying to give further words and meaning to it. But, this last summer, I felt myself in the same emotionally turbulent place as when I had original encountered the poem initially—in some fit of mania, of sleepless nights, and of love—and it finally felt like the right time to approach it again—a strange moment of parallelism—like having a hand in the past reach out to you in the present. And, like the moment of passion that presented itself so briefly, the writing of this piece came and went quickly, like the tide.
a Night in Brooklyn [ 2016 ]
for tenor (or soprano), 'cello
We undid a button,
turned out the light,
and in that narrow bed
we built the great city—
water towers, cisterns,
hot asphalt roofs, parks,
septic tanks, arterial roads,
Canarsie, the intricate channels,
the seacoast, underwater mountains,
bluffs, islands, the next continent,
using only the palms of our hands
and the tips of our tongues, next
we made darkness itself, by then
it was time for dawn
and we closed our eyes
and counted to ourselves
until the sun rose
and we had to take it all to pieces
for there could be only one Brooklyn.
A Night in Brooklyn | Dennis Nurkse
Brooklyn was my first home when I arrived in New York. There's something about this city that still sparkles and shines like the first day I met it—being enamored of the subway system, the ebb and flow of bodies in transit, and the juxtaposition of being so public and yet so private. My most creative time tends to be during the small hours of the night and Nurkse's poem reminded me so fondly of the summer nights so damp you could drink them—a time when the city, despite being so busy in the daytime, is quite still. Simple. Tender.