Without a Philosophy

$19.99

three songs on poetry by Elizabeth Seydel Morgan
for soprano, violin, and harp (2013)

Composer: Dennis Tobenski
by Dennis Tobenski Report Abuse

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Description

Perusal Score

Duration

12 min.

Text

Elizabeth Seydel Morgan

Songs

1. Like Young Men
2. Gnat Facts on NPR
3. Without a Philosophy

Program Notes

Without a Philosophy is, on the surface, a song cycle about animals and insects – deer, gnats, and a dog – but just beneath that behooved, buzzing, furry surface lie observations on human behavior, habits, and even sexuality. The texts are by poet Elizabeth Seydel Morgan, who I met while we were both in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Amherst, VA in 2009.

The cycle opens with the pastoral “Like Young Men”, in which the singer observes two young stags grazing in her garden. The song is a quasi-passacaglia, with a repeating figure in the bass line whose tonal ambiguity (the figure is constructed of the root, ninth, and raised seventh scale degrees) gives voice to the sensuality of the text – comparing the litheness and power of the stags to that of young men when they’re not aware of being watched.

“Gnat Facts on NPR” takes the tremolandi that make “Like Young Men” so peaceful, and turns them into the buzzing and swarming of a cloud of gnats. The song begins with an expression of annoyance over how the mating rituals of gnats can interfere with the mating rituals of humans (with a brief reference to The Orlons’ 1962 hit song “The Wah-Watusi”), then shifts as NPR’s expert on gnats says that the females “hang back on the sidelines”, which stirs a memory of cheerleaders and football players – the football players swarming on the field and the cheerleaders hanging back on the sidelines until the frenzy becomes to much. Suddenly the mating habits of gnats seem much less foreign.

The cycle ends with “Without a Philosophy”, which bears the epigraph: “…like a dog between 4 trees…”. While on one level the song is about a dog and his fabled glut of choices, it is also a meditation on the poet’s predilection for searching out the darknesses between choices – not taking the things set in front of her, but finding her own path, for which I too have a great affinity.

Because early 2013 was a whirlwind of composing and putting wheels in motion for more yet composing, this 12-minute cycle was written over a period of ten days: March 1-10, 2013.

Description

Perusal Score

Duration

12 min.

Text

Elizabeth Seydel Morgan

Songs

1. Like Young Men
2. Gnat Facts on NPR
3. Without a Philosophy

Program Notes

Without a Philosophy is, on the surface, a song cycle about animals and insects – deer, gnats, and a dog – but just beneath that behooved, buzzing, furry surface lie observations on human behavior, habits, and even sexuality. The texts are by poet Elizabeth Seydel Morgan, who I met while we were both in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Amherst, VA in 2009.

The cycle opens with the pastoral “Like Young Men”, in which the singer observes two young stags grazing in her garden. The song is a quasi-passacaglia, with a repeating figure in the bass line whose tonal ambiguity (the figure is constructed of the root, ninth, and raised seventh scale degrees) gives voice to the sensuality of the text – comparing the litheness and power of the stags to that of young men when they’re not aware of being watched.

“Gnat Facts on NPR” takes the tremolandi that make “Like Young Men” so peaceful, and turns them into the buzzing and swarming of a cloud of gnats. The song begins with an expression of annoyance over how the mating rituals of gnats can interfere with the mating rituals of humans (with a brief reference to The Orlons’ 1962 hit song “The Wah-Watusi”), then shifts as NPR’s expert on gnats says that the females “hang back on the sidelines”, which stirs a memory of cheerleaders and football players – the football players swarming on the field and the cheerleaders hanging back on the sidelines until the frenzy becomes to much. Suddenly the mating habits of gnats seem much less foreign.

The cycle ends with “Without a Philosophy”, which bears the epigraph: “…like a dog between 4 trees…”. While on one level the song is about a dog and his fabled glut of choices, it is also a meditation on the poet’s predilection for searching out the darknesses between choices – not taking the things set in front of her, but finding her own path, for which I too have a great affinity.

Because early 2013 was a whirlwind of composing and putting wheels in motion for more yet composing, this 12-minute cycle was written over a period of ten days: March 1-10, 2013.

Dennis Tobenski (ASCAP)

Dennis Tobenski is a composer of acoustic new music, a vocalist, and a strong advocate for new music and for the interests of living composers.

Dennis’s Only Air, a 20-minute work for high voice and orchestra memorializing the gay teenagers who have taken their own lives in recent years, was commissioned by the Illinois State University Symphony Orchestra, and has been performed in a chamber version by The Secret Opera in New York and members of the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony.

In February 2016, he and pianist Marc Peloquin released their first album together, a disc of art songs by living American composers titled And He’ll Be Mine.

Dennis also hosts the Music Publishing Podcast and The Composer’s Guide to Doing Business: two music business-centered podcasts aimed at helping composers and performers to learn more about the practical aspects of their careers.

Dennis received his B.Mus. in Vocal Performance and Music Theory & Composition from Illinois State University, and his M.A. in Music Composition from The City College of New York.

His principal teachers have included David Del Tredici, Daron Hagen, and Chester Biscardi. He is a member of the Board of Advisors for Composers Now, and the Board of Directors of the KeyedUp MusicProject. Dennis lives in New York City with his husband Darien Scott Shulman and their cat Pistachio.

www.dennistobenski.com



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