The Petrarch Project
Composer Suzanne Farrin
Composer Suzanne Farrin's "appealingly tart" sound (NY Times) has been brought to life by some of the great musicians of today, such as the International Contemporary Ensemble, Anthony Roth Costanzo, the Arditti Quartet, the American Composer's Orchestra (George Manahan), Derek Bermel, Nuiko Wadden, Antoine Tamestit, So Percussion, the Parker String Quartet, Vanessa Perez, Tanya Bannister, Mark Stewart, and Steve Mackey, among others. Her works have been heard at Mostly Mozart, Music Mountain, Look & Listen, the Philadelphia Fringe, Alpenklassik, Theaterforum (Germany), Town Hall Seattle, Carnegie's Weill Hall, Symphony Space, Merkin Hall and in South America at the Festival Nuevo Mundo (Venezuela) and Festival Música y Arte Sonoro (Argentina). Her work has been supported by organizations including the Rockefeller Foundation, Meet the Composer (now known as New Music USA), the Wachovia Foundation, and Concert Artists Guild. Suzanne Farrin is Associate Professor of Composition and Director of the Conservatory of Music at the State University of New York (SUNY) Purchase. She holds a D.M.A. from Yale University. "Corpo di Terra" is the first release devoted entirely to her music, which may also be heard on recordings on the VAI, Signum Classics and Albany Records labels. Commissions have come from a variety of sources and for combinations as diverse as Irish bagpipes and string quartet to solo piano pieces and works for vibraphone.
Petrarch, the great Italian poet, has been a rich source for composers over many centuries. In this CD, several of his poems are projected through the lens of individual instruments, striving to express the inner psychological world behind the words. My goal with these pieces was to set these texts as “songs without words,” with every nuance in the original poetry inspiring a gesture in the music. In Polvere et ombra, (Dust and shadow) the poet shouts the text to the sky through arresting glissandi in the drape of an overwhelming night. Corpo di terra (Flesh of earth) addresses memory, reflected in nostalgic allusions to the baroque allemande through figurations, trills, and glissandi. Pitched worlds submerge and resurface transformed, extended or untouched as the texts swoop in and out of utterance, as memories are not fixed, but have a life of their own. Ma Dentro Dove (But deeper within) is written for clarinet and resonating piano. Using a continually depressed damper pedal, the sound of the clarinet is played into the piano via small speakers, which excite the strings according to volume, pitch and timbre. The effect explores the voices of the clarinet that exist “deeper within” the conventional timbre, uncovering, unveiling, and giving life to sounds that are beneath the surface. Uscirmi di braccia (Leave my arms) appears in the original poem as a reference to Apollo’s arms as they reach to capture his love interest, Daphne. The viola also lies across the player’s arm as a lover might. This struggle with desire and possession defines the musical character of Uscirmi di braccia. The commissioners asked that I connect to the work to a Schubert lied and I chose Nacht und Träume, whose text by Matthäus von Collin is interwoven with Petrarch’s poem and surfaces near the end of the composition. Time is a Cage, is a meditation on each of the four strings of the violin (the second one is tuned to Bb instead of A) and deals with the unsteady perception of time passing.