Earthquakes and Islands
for soprano, baritone, and piano

Composition Date: 2015
Duration: 00:35:00
Genre: Two Voices, With Solo Instrument, , Keyboards

Instrumentation:

Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 1 x Piano
  • 1 x Soprano
  • 1 x Baritone
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Programme Note:
The following is excerpted from Mr. Staniland’s journal while composing the work: Meditations Before and After Living I loved the idea of trill and how it fit the text: A trill can be both meditative and exciting/terrifying, and the duality of a 2 note trill nicely mirrors the concepts of before and after, suggested in the title of the poem. So off I went and wrote a piano part made up almost entirely of trills (!) that crossfade and dovetail creating a somewhat unusual piano texture that is both melodic and harmonic. Reddened by Hammer. This text is so dark. I have written a very minimal piano part to set a poetic background for this very short text “Reddened by Hammer”. It is so spare I am almost uncomfortable, and I have to actively resist the urge to complicate it. I seek clarity and long line above all else…The piano hammer is the propelling heartbeat of this song. Future Perfect I chose to set the text twice again, reflecting on both the title ‘future’ and the last line of the poem ‘past lives in the clouds’ . It seemed to me to suggest that it made sense to have an A B A’ form where the A sections could relate to one another in a past/future sense. Without a Roof In this poem I love tension created by the use of strophic –like structure and the lines of thought that refuse to be contained within those structures. It reminds of watching a figure skater flirt with the edges of the rink. I really worked to access and maximize this tension in the setting As with the other pieces, I challenged my self to seek clarity and simplicity: the rhythmic profile is basic (though rubato), with no difficult rhythms typical of new music. The ensemble is always clear – call/response, or unison, solo, or, at the end, contrapunctal. My Voice, in My Mouth This poem is the last one in Robin’s book “Knife Throwing Through Self Hypnosis”, which is the only poem so far that is not from her new collection. The piano part is meant to represent the lion. Big fat clusters, as though the lion paws the keyboard. Many musical motifs are revisited here – the repeated note (D) and heavy clusters recall Reddened by Hammer . In the daydream-like sections, I bring back Eb major 7 sonority, which is the same daydream chord / clouds in future perfect. I also use spoken (or rather, shouted) text, as in future perfect. It is fun to make these connections – it gives what can be sometimes arbitrary choices (like key or note choice) more profundity. I suppose that is the magic of a cycle vs a song. All the Grey Areas are God This is the shortest one yet, around a minute or two…. It is scherzo-like in character, even though it is on the darker side. There is an Ivesian quality to this song, especially in the clashing harmonies, where Tyler sings soaring major 3rds about minor chords. The piano freely mixes minor 9ths with triads without reconciling them at all. It is kind of an impression of loneliness I feel in the text. Aurora Borealis This is a short song using a highly chromatic melody that treats the texts in strophic manner, as it is presented in written form. The poetry follows an irregular syllabic count for the 4 verses. Since 12 was the maximum number of syllables, I use, for the first time in this cycle, an overt 12 note series. This song retains its minimal approach and is set very low in the voice. We jump right in to the 12 note ostinato, instantly bewildered, like looking up and all-of-a- sudden seeing the magnificent sky with all its stars and auroras caused magnetic storms (something we see in the northern parts of Canada quite frequently). The piano frames the vocal line by supporting each downbeat, while playing a pointillistic ostinato high in the piano, meant to depict stars overhead. Go By Contraries The piece is held together by an [e] pedal, and is somewhat antiphonal, with lots of call/response. It is the only piece that calls on the full forces of 2 singers and 2 pianists. The singers sing almost entirely in thirds, except at key points, making a very consonant, if haunting feeling that is reminiscent of early music. After many experiments and after studying other precedents (notably Schumann’s Dichterliebe: song 16 ) I chose to write a piano 4-hands postlude of sorts, revisiting musical and thematic material from previous movements that did not seem quite resolved yet. Rather than label it as a new movement, it is appended to Go by Contraries. Despite my best laid plans, it struck me as rather odd to end a song cycle on an instrumental moment, so after the piano interlude I chose to repeat the sung lines from Go By Contraries, but overtop of a new accompaniment comprised of revisited material from earlier songs. It seemed like the natural and organic choice given that I had repeated whole swaths of text in both Reddened by Hammer and Future Perfect. The result is a dramatic closing movement that feels like the right way to end the cycle.

Premiere Information:
22 May 2016, Stone House, Brookyln, NY, USA
Tyler Duncan, Erika Switzer, Martha Guth, Mike Bronfman

CATALOGUE INFO:

  • Call Number:
  • MV 2101 S784ear 2015
  • Genre:
  • Two Voices, With Solo Instrument, , Keyboards
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • July 26, 2018
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • Score
    86 Pages
    Height: 11 inches
    Width: 8.5 inches
  • Language Information
  • Main language: English
  • Additional Information:
  • Text by Robin Richardson.
    Commissioned by the Brooklyn Art Song Society.
    I. Meditations Before and After Living – soprano / piano
    II. Reddened by Hammer – baritone / piano
    III. Future Perfect – baritone / piano
    IV. Without a Roof - soprano / piano
    V. My Voice, in My Mouth – soprano / piano
    VI. Secret Service – baritone / piano
    VII. Aurora Borealis – soprano / piano
    VIII. Go by Contraries – soprano / baritone / piano
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Earthquakes and Islands for soprano, baritone, and piano: Score
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Earthquakes and Islands for soprano, baritone, and piano by Andrew Staniland (Score)
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Earthquakes and Islands for soprano, baritone, and piano
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