Three Voices is a sublime piece that both mesmerizes and stupefies.
The length, the tunings, the melismas, textures, the range, the relentlessness—it’s challenging in a way that is unlike any other piece in the unaccompanied solo voice repertoire, and certainly in ways that Quince could not have foreseen.
This piece was written initially for one singer to perform with two looming, black loudspeakers performing the other vocal lines rather than three live singers.
Feldman wrote the piece in memoriam to Frank O’Hara, a NYC poet who was very good friends with Feldman. O’Hara was a prominent figure in “The New York School” of poets and was very inspired by music, dance, and painting (specifically the Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s and 60s) and it came through in his poetry. Here’s a link to more of his poetry.
Feldman and O’Hara were life-long collaborators, dedicating multiple pieces to each other, including the poem referenced in Three Voices. O’Hara died very early in life (at age 40), and this piece serves as an ode to him. The loudspeakers that are typically used in a performance by one singer represent looming, black tombstones peering over the singer’s shoulders to the audience to remind us that death is ever-present.
The work is mostly sung without text, however the few fragments of text that you do hear come from O’Hara’s 1957 poem Wind. Here it is in its entirety.
to Morton Feldman
Who’d have thought
that snow falls
it always circled whirling
like a thought
in the glass ball
around me and my bear
Then it seemed beautiful
nothing ever fell
nor my little bear
imprisoned in crystal
beauty has replaced itself with evil
And the snow whirls only
in fatal winds
it always loathed containment
I love evil
Quince performs a program that includes Three Voices at High Concept Labs on August 6, 2015. For more information about Quince, visit quince-ensemble.com.
Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble
Thursday, August 6
7 PM / $10 Students, $15 General
High Concept Labs
2233 S Throop St, Chicago, IL