Commissioned and premiered by the Arneis Quartet and soprano Tony Arnold, Hunger is a setting three poems, each by a Symbolist poet: ‘Chanson d’Automne’ (Verlaine), ‘L’imprevu’ (Baudelaire–though he’s technically not a Symbolist, but…), and ‘Faim’ (Rimbaud). The three songs together form a meditation on self-consumption, where the soul consumes itself through despair. The first song, ‘Chanson d’Automne,’ is a lyrical, yet overly melodramatic representation of grief, with each word intoned syllable by syllable with extreme weariness. This leads to the second song, ‘L’imprevu,’ nearly the opposite of the first. It is fast, jagged, aggressive, and since the poem cycles through a rapid assortment of reprehensible com media del arte characters, it exhibits a variety of extended techniques for both voice and strings. Structurally it acts as a kind of filter through which the first song passes, emerging out the other end as the third song. The third takes material from the first, but twists and warps it, breaks it into pieces and scatters them across the landscape. In this song, the singer becomes consumed, reduced to nothing but a bare hiss, while the string players take up her text in rapid, whispered snatches.
A score is available here.