The inspiration for Michael’s Spoon was this text from the end of J.M. Coetzee’s 1983 novel The Life and Times of Michael K.
And if the old man climbed out of the cart and stretched himself (things were gathering pace now) and looked at where the pump had been that the soldiers had blown up so that nothing should be left standing, and complained, saying, ‘What are we going to do about water?,’ he, Michael K, would produce a teaspoon from his pocket, a teaspoon and a long roll of string. He would clear the rubble from the mouth of the the shaft, he would bend the handle of the teaspoon in a loop and tie the string to it, he would lower it down the shaft deep into the earth, and when he brought it up there would be water in the bowl of the spoon; and in that way, he would say, one can live.
J. M. Coetzee: Life and Times of Michael K
Michael’s Spoon was originally written as an all-electronic piece which is the second movement of the five-movement piece The Garden of Cyrus. That piece was released on my 1998 CD, Overstepping.
Michael’s Spoon is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days. You can listen to the electronic version and watch Mechele Manno’s video by visiting February 9th.
The chamber ensemble version of Michael’s Spoon was originally made in 2004 for performances by the Robin Cox Ensemble. You can download a score of that version here. You are welcome to substitute instruments as desired for your ensemble. Alternatively, the piece can be performed by a solo player on the cello part (or shared by low brass), with all the other parts pre-recorded. Here’s a performing score of the two-trombone version. When you order the performance materials by clicking the button below, let me know what instrumental alterations you need. Thanks for your interest in Michael’s Spoon!
Cave was commissioned by the St. Louis ensemble Synchronia for a program investigating the theme of America in Y2K. The text is by Eileen Myles. It is the third piece in the last year I have been asked to write on this subject*, and I’m noticing that I know less about the meaning of the millennium, or the future in general, the more I’m asked to write pieces about it. I have, however, had several excellent conversations about souls with Ansel Elgort, who is six, while I’ve been writing this piece, so I dedicate it to him with love and thanks for his friendship.
Cave is part of my ongoing project A Book of Days. Please visit July 3rd to hear a recording.
The piece was originally made for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, keyboard (or piano and vibes), spoken voice, and electronics. There is also an optional video by Clifton Taylor.
Here is a score of the piece, and here’s a set of parts. I’m open to you adapting it for your ensemble; let me know what you have in mind. If you wish to use the original DX7 patch, download this zip file of the patch in various formats that may be useful for re-creating the patch.
I will send you the pre-recorded track when you order the piece by clicking the paypal button below.
Five Things was written on 23 October 2001. The text is Thomas Cleary’s translation of a Song Dynasty (10th to 13th century) letter to a Zen Master Xiang:
• What has been long neglected cannot be restored immediately.
• Ills that have been accumulating for a long time cannot be cleared away immediately.
• One cannot enjoy oneself forever.
• Human emotions cannot be just.
• Calamity cannot be avoided by trying to run away from it.
Anyone who has realized these five things can be in the world without misery.
Five Things is November 14th in my ongoing project A Book of Days. Please go there to hear a live recording by the Robin Cox Ensemble on clarinet, cello, and woodblock, with me doing the text.
Judson Wright has made an animation that can be projected in performances of the piece. Contact me for more details.
Here is a score of the piece in pdf format. I can supply you with different transpositions and clefs, as needed.
To purchase performance materials, please click on the paypal button below:
Robin Redbreast was commissioned by Mary Sharp Cronson for an evening celebrating the poet Stanley Kunitz. I chose his poem of the same name, which I think is a small, brutal masterpiece. I asked my mother, who I was caring for at the time, to draw me a picture of a robin. The drawing above is what she made for me.
It was the dingiest bird
you ever saw, all the color
washed from him, as if
he had been standing in the rain,
friendless and stiff and cold,
since Eden went wrong.
In the house marked For Sale,
where nobody made a sound
in the room where I lived
with an empty page, I had heard
the squawking of the jays
under the wild persimmons
So I scooped him up
after they knocked him down,
in league with that ounce of heart
pounding in my palm
that dumb beak gaping.
Poor thing! Poor foolish life!
without sense enough to stop
running in desperate circles,
needing my lucky help
to toss him back into his element.
But when I held him high,
fear clutched my hand,
for through the hole in his head,
cut whistle-clean . . .
through the old dried wound
between his eyes
where the hunter’s brand
had tunneled out his wit . . .
I caught the cold flash of the blue
The piece has been recorded by Corey Dargel and Margaret Lancaster and is available on my CD Tell the Birds.
Robin Redbreast is part of my ongoing project A Book of Days. You can hear a recording of the piece by Margaret Lancaster and me by visiting March 27th.
Here is a score of the piece in pdf format. To purchase the pre-recorded track for live performance of the piece, please click on the paypal button below:
ATQUE SEMPER (2006) for flute, horn, electric guitar, bass, and piano
Atque Semper is a meditation on the early medieval hymn Ave Maris Stella. The guitarist plays a free version of the melody while the other instruments try very hard to mess it up. The pianist is torn between supporting the guitar and hanging out with the troublemakers.
Atque Semper was commissioned by the young guitarist Dylan Allegretti for Santa Fe New Music and is dedicated to him with many thanks.
Atque Semper is part of a project called ReThinking Mary, which also includes Lullaby, Wonder Counselor, Take Your Joy, and Be/Hold. Atque Semper is also part of my ongoing project A Book of Days. You can listen to a live performance by the Cal State University New Music Ensemble, under the direction of Alan Shockley, by visiting January 7th.
Here is the score of the original arrangement. I am open to people making arrangements of the piece for different instrumentation, so if you have ideas about this, please feel free to get in touch with me at eve at evbvd dot com.
For a set of parts, please click the donation link below, with my thanks for your support of this very low-key way of publishing:
The title Osculati Fourniture comes from a mysterious query in a journal entry written by my mother, Joyce Heeney Beglarian, on 22 May 1981, while en route to Florence from Pisa. I cannot know why these two words came into her mind while riding along the autostrada, or what connection the phrase might have with shutters or Lucca, but it seems likely that the whole business has some obscure significance.
The music is a response to the gushe Zirkesh-e Salmak in the dastgah of Shur, part of the repertoire of Persian classical music. Its relation to all this is perhaps osculate in some sense.
Osculati Fourniture is January 24th in my ongoing project A Book of Days. You can hear my performance of the piece by going to that day. In addition, there is a cool video of a performance featuring Kevork Mourad’s live drawings. The piece is dedicated with love to Yvan Greenberg, who I imagine might enjoy this little cabinet of oddities.
[and by the way, my shutter photo was taken in Pescia, not Lucca — but you get the idea…]
Here are some performing scores:
score in C (pdf)
alto flute transposition (pdf)
When you click the paypal button below, we will send you the pre-recorded tracks needed to perform the piece. We can also supply you with a performing score in any transposition or clef you’d like.