for soprano and electronics

Text by Paul Mann

premiered February 21, 2009

Lucy Shelton, soprano
17th Ussachevsky Memorial Festival
Lyman Hall, Pomona College
Claremont, California


Outside/Inside is a setting of selected poems of Paul Mann, who teaches in the Pomona College English Department, and was written for soprano Lucy Shelton.

It seems to me that this poetry connects the world outside with human internal experience on many levels. Images of roaring seas are intertwined with those of the inner voices of the writer; sand and thoughts drift in similar patterns. The poems in the center of the set are more personal, one referring to one of the poet’s daughters by name, but they still oscillate between experiencing inner and outer worlds.

One of the pleasures of working on the piece has been the strange juxtaposition of the actual solitary act of composing with the sense of companionship that comes of knowing the poet and performer personally, and hearing their voices in every moment of work.

All of the electronic sounds in the piece are derived from the voices of the poet Paul Mann and soprano Lucy Shelton, often with little disguise.

sea roaring like thought roaring
in the world’s ears, as if the world had ears

whenever I write one of my voices is whining
whenever I write one of my voices is missing

outside an endless wave inside a point seen outside seeing

shoreline, white tidelace, drawn lines of pelicans in flight
offshore fog a shore of air

thought drifts as sand in wind

the wind blows waves of sand against the words

outside breeze, nor sounds of sand nor other
air or

your small face mirror of all loss

already disappearing thru yourself

to stone, to air

most substantial, most
invisible of all

flowers or fists, her small
lungs hidden, one

cannot know

how grows
how blossoms or how twists

her breath in air particular & dense

I want to know & know
that thought is violate, to reach
into & be sure

should I sentence me for bringing

her dehiscent
into such a texture

go little wisdom

alien of us


soon you will know what I unknowing

what thought gives off & I
am left

o little there your lips
to breast, to dust

word word with infant lips

high cliffs or towers, wind
swept rim of a broad green bowl

hill beyond hill the treelines shading
ridge beyond ridge to the fading bay

the sublime begins as inclination

psyche whistling in the ears,
prosthetic vistas

I might imagine me remembering me seeing this fading

world as God sees it
curved inside the mind

past death
the edge of fading

I with the wrong song sagging from my lips

sing only to an ear of air: you






Paul Mann