Mother Tongues


Instrumentation: voice, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano
Duration: 10:00
Recording: Available on Small and Mighty Forces, Albany Records TROY 1518; Spotify, iTunes, etc


Mother Tongues brings together a multiplicity of languages, both verbal and musical.  In the haiku themselves a Japanese verse form meets the distinctive voice of Sonia Sanchez.  Put another way, a traditionally pristine poetic landscape is imbued with love, drama and heat.  On the musical side, my palette here clearly includes elements of the blues and of art song, within an identifiable world of contemporary classical music.  There must be other idiomatic strands as well.  What to make of these distances?  Are the multiplicities too big, too many?  I suppose that in writing, whether music or poetry, we use what is innate and at the same time we appropriate, often losing track of the distinction between the two.  License must be taken, freedom assumed.  And the forgetting is the fun part.  Once the pencil is moving and the ear is tuned in, that multiplicity has to simply be, letting it all somehow coalesce as mother tongue.

Mother Tongues was commissioned and premiered by Network for New Music. In July of 2014 it was included in the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, featuring soprano Claudia Rosenthal. It has been recorded for Albany Records by Sequitur with Mary Nessinger.