Lairs of Soundings
A Triptych for Soprano and String Orchestra
Commissioned by the Binghamton Symphony (Binghamton, NY) and dedicated to them and soprano, Louise Wohlfaka, Lairs of Soundings was composed between February and May of 1982. It is scored for soprano and double string orchestra. Movements I and III are based on poems by Ursula K. Le Guin from her collection, HARD WORDS And Other Poems (1981, Harper & Row, Publishers*) and are used with the kind permission of the poet and copyright holder, Ursula K. Le Guin.
The strings and soprano are treated differently in each movement. In Movement I, the strings act largely as an accompaniment to the soprano. In the textless movement II, the soprano, singing only vowel sounds, becomes part of the string ensemble as a wordless vocal instrument. For movement II, the soprano may be placed centrally behind or between the divided orchestras so as to become a more integral part of the ensembles. In movement III, dialogue between the divided ensembles and the soprano is an important structural element. When the soprano is singing in the final movement, it may be necessary for the conductor to reduce the size of the orchestras (especially in the case of a very large ensemble). The size of the full string orchestra may vary widely and is left up to the conductor’s discretion. When the word “concertino” appears, the string complement may be reduced. However, at the conductor’s discretion, this direction may be ignored and balance achieved by further dynamic reduction.
Binghamton, New York
String Orchestra Placement:
Orchestra I Orchestra II
Movement durations : I = ca. 3′; II = ca. 5′; III = ca. 3′
Total duration = ca. 11 minutes
Give me back my language
let me speak the tongue you taught me.
I will lie the great lies in your honor,
praise you without naming you,
obey the laws of darkness and of metrics.
Only let me speak my language
in your praise, silence of the valleys,
north side of the rivers,
third face averted,
Let me speak the mother tongue
and I will sing so loudly
newlyweds and old women
will dance to my singing
and sheep will cease from cropping and machines
will gather round to listen
in cities fallen silent
as a ring of standing stones:
O let me sing the walls down, Mother!
(Ursula K. Le Guin)
The dragon splays her belly on the gold,
Gross hoarder, hot-eyed miser,
Holding all the earth can give to hold,
And none the wiser.
Dumbness deadness darkness is your nest.
Brooding there, fierce booby,
No fire’s enough, not even in your breast,
To hatch a ruby!
Why keep such glory in the glowering dark,
Pent and unspent in earth?
Give me one coin, one diamond-spark,
One kingdom’s worth!
I will not give a single pearl, says she,
Stretching a switchblade leg.
The one I gave would prove to be
My own, my Egg.
So filch your treasures frightened and alone,
Pickpocket, miserable thief,
The anger opal and the honor stone,
The gold of grief,
The joy star and the emerald despair:
Take them up to glitter in the sun,
Bright and worthless: earthfast in my lair,
I keep that one.
(Ursula K. Le Guin)
* “Invocation,” copyright © 1971, 1999 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in Speculative Poetry Review; from the Author’s collection, HARD WORDS And Other Poems; used by permission of the Author and the Author’s agents, the Virginia Kidd Agency, Inc.
“Wordhoard,” copyright © 1979 by Ursula K. Le Guin; first appeared in Kenyon Review; from the Author’s collection, HARD WORDS And Other Poems; used by permission of the Author and the Author’s agents, the Virginia Kidd Agency, Inc.