Currently, I am taking a break from my dissertation and working on a chamber piece for flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, cello, and voice. The goal is to have the piece done by sometime in March, with the premier in April or May. I haven’t been feeling like much of a composer lately, so it’s good to be getting my hands dirty again.
The text I am using for the voice is a suicide note my cousin found in the attic of her new house in West Virginia. It is dated June 14, 1930. She researched to find who it might be, but was unsuccessful. The text never makes any reference to whether the writer is a man or woman, nor does it mention a name. The writer does not give any particular reason why he or she cannot bear life, only that they no longer wish to do so. In perhaps the most interesting line, they ask the reader to “destroy all of my pictures that I have not got hold of. I would not have any one to remember that such a looking mortal ever existed.”
The text is sad, especially in light of the fact that this person is completely unknown. I also find it fascinating, and it is easy to try to imagine why they were the way they were, or what happened to them. The setting has also led to some interesting debate, such as whether it should be set musically or more rhythmically like speech, or whether it is appropriate to change or reorder the text for musical purposes. Some might even feel that setting this text is not appropriate, but my answer is that if I can make something contructive out of it, then maybe the world will seem a little less bleak.