for baritone, mandola, viola, cello, and piano
Text by Cynthia Fogg
premiered September 10, 2017
Bridges Hall, Claremont, California
Scenes from Sarajevo is based on six poems by Pasadena poet Beverly Lafontaine.
In a world with instantaneous dissemination of words and pictures, the cruelty and hardships that humanity inflicts upon itself are commonplace, although the details vary from one time and place to the next. The siege of Sarajevo has its own unforgettable imagery that no one exposed to the media in the early 1990s can easily forget: innocent people crossing a city bridge sporadically shot by snipers. A cellist playing alone in a town square, in defiance of the shells exploding around him. The news of many long-missing men discovered alive (or sometimes dead) only by their appearance on the television. Bodies floating down the river through the center of town. Ms. Lafontaine’s poems eloquently convey these scenes from various perspectives, often with an entirely unexpected intimacy and compassion. We see through the eyes of worried and grieving husbands, wives, children, and even a sniper.
I have long been attracted to the folk music of the Balkan region, and this setting reflects that, with drones, the mild dissonance of conflicting modes, and changing meters. The harmonic language of Ravel’s Chansons Madécasses was also in my mind, possibly because of its text. The ethnic tensions underlying the text of Ravel’s piece are perhaps more suppressed, but their ultimate violent outcome is never in doubt.
Scenes from Sarajevo is dedicated to Gwendolyn Lytle and Cynthia Fogg.
|I sit as the king on my seat, on my throne
I use my great brain as I tweet on my phone
I've got all the great words, and billions and billions
Of hotels and golf clubs to call my own.
Kellyanne, Mooch, and Mitch and Paul
Believe me it's all very convoluted
Obama, left to his own devices
As you know, I'm not one inclined to gloat,
I can tweet louder than news that's fake
The failing New York Times and garbage CNN