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fire|contained (2022)

Voice and Sextet (fl, cl, prc, pno, vln, vcl)


University of Washington Pierrot Ensemble, Roger Wu Fu conducting (May 27, 2023)

Nathaniel Parks (November 16, 2022)

Program Note
For the past four years, I have found myself enraptured with the poetry of Caroline Preziosi. The vivid, surrealist imagery of her writing, coupled with her complex use of metaphor have both invited me into her work and rewarded me for my time spent with it. The poem set here, an untitled work from a collection of epistle poems addressed to someone known only as the letter “P,” seems to trace “P’s” life from beginning to end. The images evoked juxtapose the actions of our protagonist, “P,” with the character of the moon, which serves as their foil. There is a felt absence in this poem, like there is in much of Caroline’s work; a sense of apostrophe coupled with yearning.

When I set out to write fire|contained, I wanted to capture both the feeling this text stirred in me and to create a soundscape that engaged with the equally clear and perplexing images Caroline embedded in it. Each movement deals expressly with the imagery of the poem, whether that be through the sharp, abrupt changes as “you search for a woman,” or the fading, unanswered call to the moon.

The feeling of loss is much less explicitly stated but was never far from my mind when I was writing. I have found it nearly impossible to set Caroline’s words without spending a great deal of time reflecting on my own experiences with loss and the grief that accompanies it. This piece presented an interesting opportunity to explore a more subtle approach to processing my grief while painting a much more literal picture of Caroline’s words.

“untitled” by Caroline Preziosi

Start with this:

you are asked to paint fire
by way of containing it.

Again and again, you return
to the character of the moon.

First, you search for a woman
who cannot see you and find
only a man at the bottom
of the steps, uninjured.
The moon is her accomplice.

Next, you travel through a landscape
of industry. You are given power and
covered with soap. You are called to beg
the difference between commandment,
beatitude, and the little death.
The moon is a small yellow blanket
in the shape of a child, and is out
of the office when you call.

Now, you stand in a desert
against miles of fence and
see both one man alone
and a crowd screaming silently.
The moon is seven flowers
and a stark black screen.

Score video


fire|contained Perusal

fire|contained Perusal

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