Medium: Vocal

Sop, String Quartet

‘Hunger,’ for soprano and string quartet, is about self consumption. The three poems, each from a French poet and written during the latter half of the 19th century, represent different kinds of consumptive or destructive sentiment, almost always directed inward. The first of these, ‘Chanson d’automne’ by Paul Verlaine, is overtly melancholy, constructed of short lines of no more than a few words, with rounded vowels throughout. The last poem, ‘Faim’ by Arthur Rimbaud, is constructed in a similar way, though the images are more raw with a clear Biblical symbolism twisting its way through the last three verses. It is no secret that Verlaine and Rimbaud had a tumultuous, destructive relationship, and this connection is elucidated through the shared material of the two songs. The third song is a warped, fragmented version of the first. Between these two songs lies Charles Baudelaire’s ‘L’imprevu,’ the outlier of the group. The song is a setting of only half the poem (six out of twelve stanzas). Each stanza represents a stock character derived from the plays of Moliere (Harpagon the miser, Célimène the coquette, etc.), each one more reprehensible than the other. The stanzas are set with these individual characters in mind, so that throughout this very quick and highly rhythmic movement, each stanza moves through a different texture, temperament and material type. In a way, this song becomes a filter through which the lugubrious first movement becomes the broken and twisted third. Hunger was written for and dedicated to the inimitable Tony Arnold and the Arneis Quartet.



Commissioned by

Arneis Quartet

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