Text: P.K. Page
Instrumentation: contralto voice, bass clarinet, bassoon; 2 horns in F; percussion (bass drum, tam-tam, bells, glockenspiel. sizzle cymbal), timpani; piano; strings (min.0.0.6.6.4)
First performance: Centennial Hall, Winnipeg: Holly Cole, voice, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, conductor Bramwell Tovey
Planet Earth (1998)
Planet Earth was commissioned by the CBC for the Canadian jazz singer Holly Cole to perform at the 1999 Winnipeg New Music Festival. I had begun working with the Canadian poet PK Page and chose to set one of a series of poems, from a collection entitled Hologram, in which each poem uses the poetic form of the “glosa”, an early Renaissance form first developed by poets of the Spanish court.
This technique involves writing a four verse poem, preceded by a four line poem by another poet which is quoted at the begining. Each 10 line verse ends (verse one, with line one, verse two with line two and so on) with one line from the quoted poem, the sixth and ninth lines rhyming with the borrowed line.
I followed the artifice of this device, but avoided quoting the original poem. However, I did write music which would eventually have words attached when the line duly arrived in the context of the poem itself.
The music is scored for contralto voice with small chamber orchestra: bass clarinet, bassoon; 2 horns; percussion (bass drum, tam-tam, bells, glockenspiel. sizzle cymbal), timpani; piano; strings (without violins).