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Dog (after W.S. Merwin)
female voice, bassoon, and intermedia
in six episodes
for Heidi Dietrich Klein and Kristen Wolfe Jensen
October 1996 - October 1997
intermedia component includes 8- (or 4-) channel computer music, live FX processing, video projections, lighting, and staging.
Heidi Dietrich Klein, voice; Kathleen Reynolds, bassoon
Deborah Norin-Kuehn, voice; Nancy Lutes, bassoon
Heidi Dietrich Klein, voice; H. Gene Griswold, bassoon
Heidi Dietrich Klein, voice; Kristin Wolfe Jensen, bassoon
Dog is based upon the poem of the same name by American poet W.S. Merwin (b. 1927), from the collection titled Green With Beasts (1956). Merwin’s poem is a nihilistic study in despair and desolation, a contemplation of the dog who “guards all that is gone.” The present work explores the psychological implications of the poem through a variety of musical and visual elements — including 8-channel computer music, live processing of the voice and bassoon, video projections, and lighting. The vocalist elaborates upon the salient aspects of the poem, while the bassoonist acts as alter ego: together, these elements represent the physical presence of the dog, alternately aware of the oppressive present and reflective of a vital past. The computer music consists of three musical layers: a sonic “windscape” (utilizing processed sounds from the female voice and bassoon), suggesting “the shimmering vista of emptiness” described by Merwin; the spoken voice, presenting the poem in its entirety; and the processed dog sounds (crossed with bassoon and voice samples), representing a struggle of the psyche, as the creature comes to terms with its fate. The work is presented in six episodes, throughout which the voice and bassoon exchange roles: as the former becomes increasingly prominent, the latter assumes a more accompanimental status. Dog was supported in part by a faculty research grant from the University of North Texas, and is dedicated to Heidi Dietrich Klein and Kristin Wolfe Jensen. The computer music was realized at the UNT Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia, with the invaluable assistance of Michael Thompson, and the video component was rendered and edited by Jon L. Henry, under the supervision of the composer. The work was first performed by soprano Heidi Dietrich Klein and bassoonist Kristen Wolfe Jensen on 1 October 1997 at the University of North Texas. It is included on the album CEMIsonics: The Threshold of Sound (Centaur CRC-2407, 1998).