Bearing the Light for Voice and Cello

Lawrence Kramer

About this work:

   Composed and revised between 2006 and 2014, these songs explore the possibilities of dialogue between a singing voice and an instrumental counterpart that  sometimes assents, sometimes dissents, sometimes mocks, sometimes comments, sometimes reinterprets, and so on, what its alter ego expresses.  The standard combination of voice and piano appeals to me greatly, and I’ve composed for it often, but for texts as exposed and full of solitude as these pensées by Nietzsche the piano is almost too versatile and multi-layered.  What I wanted (or rather needed) was a distinct solo voice with great expressive strength and an ample range: hence the cello.  

    The texts are drawn mostly from Book IV of The Gay Science (Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft, better translated as “Exuberant Understanding”), which is subtitled “Sanctus Januarius” and concerned with the challenges of self-fashioning and self-renewal in a world without transcendental certainties.  In choosing what to set, I found that most of the passages had to be condensed to be musically effective.  Tampering with Nietzsche’s German was obviously out of the question.  In making the English versions, I would certainly interpolate a layer of interpretation between the original and the music, but the simple fact of excerpting and arranging would have done that in any case, even had I been literal and even had I set the texts in German.  

    The result, like the dramatic result of all song cycles, is a fiction, in this case one that pivots on the double meaning of the quasi-Promethean title (drawn from the first song): “Bearing the Light.”

Year composed: 2007
Duration: 21:00:40
Ensemble type: Voice, Solo or With Chamber or Jazz Ensemble:Solo Voice with One Non-keyboard Instrument

Lawrence Kramer's profile »