I Have to See You

Since the 1980s I’ve been periodically making pieces for a varied range of ensembles and instrumentation responding to the marvelous secular songs of Guillaume de Machaut. I call the project Machaut in the Machine Age, and I Have to See You is the eighth in the series. I Have to See You takes as its starting point Machaut’s Ballade #33: Ne qu’on porroit les estoiles nombrer. The line that ends all three verses is “Le grant desir que j’ay de vous veoir”, which translates to something like: “the great desire I have of seeing you,” a great desire that many of us experienced in a particularly striking way during the pandemic. Machaut knows the feeling since he spent the year 1349 in confinement due to the Black Death.


There should be a drone based on C and G; I used my own voice to make one version of the piece, singing C2 G2 C3 G3 (with C3 = middle C), but you could use something else. The yellow marks in the score indicate places where the drone should re-articulate.

Nothing in the piece should be in strict rhythmic unison: the two melodic lines can be ahead of or behind the drone attacks, and the feeling should be of everyone trying really hard to be together in a world with no guideposts. Even though the score gives you a rhythmic transcription of the medieval notation, you should basically run completely roughshod over that. I have marked notes that should be extended in green. You both want to do those extensions, but you will not succeed at being authentically in rhythmic unison and that’s how it needs to be.

I strongly recommend that you listen to my recording of the piece with Lukas Papenfusscline. I invite you to do lots of things differently, but that recording will give you a sense of the intensity I am looking for.

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I Have to See You is part of my ongoing project A Book of Days. You can watch and listen to the video Lukas and I made during lockdown by visiting 17 April.

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