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Program Notes: U, W, X, Y, Z

Viscomp 1 and Viscomp 2
The two Viscomp pieces were the musical part of a collaboration with visual artist Jack Girard which we called "Composing in Response to a Painting, Painting in Response to a Composition." The intent was to consciously influence our own individual creative processes with a product outside our own medium, and to create a work in one medium specially bound to a work in another medium. Viscomp 1 led to the creation of a painting called Tartan Woman; a painting called Patriot led to the composition Viscomp 2. Both paintings are 22 X 30". Excellent quality 8 1/2 X 11" color xeroxes are available for display at a musical performance of the Viscomp pieces, though their display is not a requirement. More detailed notes are available. 


What's for Supper?
These four songs were written to perform for grade school age children to teach them about and interest them in contemporary art music. They have also been remarkably successful in a traditional recital setting--adults are very appreciative of the music-text relationships and other references to the art music tradition. The second song, What's for Supper?, enlists the pianist and violist as both speakers and singers. The viola part is cued in the piano part so performance without a violist is possible. The texts were commissioned from Peg Lauber. Published by Arsis Press.  Advanced College and beyond.

The Whole Machine of the World
This piece is subtitled "Women Mystics Speak: Dame Julian of Norwich, Diotima in Plato's Symposium, and Beatrice of Nazareth." The piece begins with Julian of Norwich's words about the soul and body being enclosed in the goodness of God. Diotima, from Plato's Symposium, then speaks of the eternal sameness of God's beauty, with the music expressing this sameness by returning always to the same pitch. Beatrice of Nazareth's ecstatic vision is the centerpiece of the work: a mechanistic, mixed meter pattern sets the words "the whole machine of the world as if it were a wheel" and a glissando effect emphasizes the turning of a large wheel. The machine image recedes to reveal Beatrice's intense longing for unity with God, expressed in a series of solos sung over an intense and unresolved choral chord. The machine image comes to the foreground once more, then recedes again to allow Julian to speak of the image of a hazelnut and to end the work with the essential words of the opening: "soul and body, clad in the goodness of God and enclosed." The Whole Machine requires an accomplished choir. It has demanding rhythmic counterpoint and a number of solos for each voice part. Commissioned and premiered by the South Bend Chamber Singers, Nancy Menk, conductor.  Published by Yelton Rhodes Music.  Professional quality.

With a Vengeance
This single movement composition features a clear structure with pitch material solidly based around the note A. Material developed early in the piece is compressed more and more at each recurrence, while a constant sixteenth note value is maintained underneath the compression. This compression is followed by a section based on a pointillistic treatment of a descending A minor scale. The piano material is colored more and more by doublings in the violin and cello. The first section's sixteenth note figure gradually works its way into this pointillistic section and leads to a whirlwind replay of the first part of the piece. College level performance majors and beyond could perform this work. 

Witness is set in a small town in Vermont in 1924.  As the Ku Klux Klan's influence grows in the town, choices are made and lines are drawn.  The few Jews and blacks in the town are special targets of the Klan, but the church, the newspaper and local businesses are drawn into the battle as well.  Pressure to join grows and many townspeople are drawn into the Klan.  Cross burnings, a shooting, a poisoning, a suicide--all are tied to the Klan, and the community is frayed to the breaking point.  Gradually, through the perseverance of individual love, ethical strength, and an underlying sense of justice, the town is able to rebuff the Klan and to embrace and enhance their community's tradition of tolerance and diversity.
    Witness has 3 acts, each with 3 scenes and lasts 90 minutes.  The libretto is derived directly from the book of the same name by Karen Hesse.  There are  8 lead roles (3 men, 5 women), a mixed chorus with many small solos, and an orchestra of 7 (flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, viola, cello, bass, piano).
    Witness was composed over a 20-month period, from May 2004 through the end of December 2005, and premiered April 27-30, 2006, at Saint Mary's College in South Bend, Indiana.  The stage director was Douglas Boyer, Laurel Thomas was the artistic director, and Munn conducted.

Yelling at God
There is a long and continuing tradition of yelling at God:  In the Old Testament Job rages "I loathe each day of my life; I will take my complaint to God."  And in the recent movie, Forrest Gump, Lieutenant Dan yells at God from his fishing boat during a fierce storm.  Yelling at God underwent important revisions with the invaluable guidance of Laurence Smith and was completed at Interlochen Arts Camp in the summer of 1998.  

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