for soprano and electronics
Text by Paul Mann
premiered February 21, 2009
Lucy Shelton, soprano
17th Ussachevsky Memorial Festival
Lyman Hall, Pomona College
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.
whenever I write one of my voices is whining
shoreline, white tidelace, drawn lines of pelicans in flight
thought drifts as sand in wind
the wind blows waves of sand against the words
outside breeze, nor sounds of sand nor other
already disappearing thru yourself
to stone, to air
most substantial, most
her breath in air particular & dense
I want to know & know
should I sentence me for bringing
alien of us
soon you will know what I unknowing
what thought gives off & I
o little there your lips
word word with infant lips
hill beyond hill the treelines shading
the sublime begins as inclination
I might imagine me remembering me seeing this fading
world as God sees it
sing only to an ear of air: you