Current Songs, for soprano and piano, was composed in New York City and completed on October 26, 2016.
In the fall of 2016, I was introduced to several poems written by a poet named Liuyu Chen. Two works in particular caught my attention, both of which used the ocean to highlight nature’s positive and destructive cycles. The first poem is called Nothing Falls on the Fisherman’s Dream. It describes a fisherman out at sea hoping to make a tremendous catch only to return home empty. Though the day might seem squandered, the fisherman remains happy and content. Nothing can diminish his love for the ocean and the happiness it provides. The second poem called Myth describes a person in a desperate search for the sea while surrounded by a dust storm in China’s Gobi desert. Suddenly, the ocean like a monster, is revealed creating chaos in its wake. This destruction gives birth to a welcome tranquility.
After setting both poems to music, Chen wrote a third poem called Anonymous, which now serves as the final song of this cycle. For me, this poem was particularly interesting, and somewhat unsettling, because it depicts life from death’s point of view. Death is an unseen entity watching and waiting while a woman carries out her daily activities without notice. As with the previous two poems, there is a reference to water. What was once blue and clear has changed to black as death looms, “night stooped black water, your silhouette disappears as I stare.”
Within these three poems, I used the reference to water as a way to help guide the music, order the pieces, and help decipher the possible meanings behind the text. In Nothing Falls on the Fisherman’s Dream, the water represents hope and promise. Myth displays water as a destructive force in nature yet at the same time suggests that out of even the most disorderly and chaotic of times there can emerge peace. In Anonymous, the water’s color highlights the inevitable.
Current Songs is approximately ten minutes long.