Dog

Complete Work Title: 

Dog (after W.S. Merwin)


Performance Medium: 

female voice, bassoon, and intermedia


Movements: 

in six episodes


Duration: 

c.10:30


Dedication: 

for Heidi Dietrich Klein and Kristen Wolfe Jensen


Date Composed: 

October 1996 - October 1997


Performance Information: 

intermedia component includes 8- (or 4-) channel computer music, live FX processing, video projections, lighting, and staging.


Additional Information: 

Performance/Broadcast History: 
  • 10 March 2000; University of North Texas (Denton, TX) — SEAMUS Y2K Conference

    Heidi Dietrich Klein, voice; Kathleen Reynolds, bassoon

  • 15 October 1999; Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, OH) — BGSU New Music and Art Festival

    Deborah Norin-Kuehn, voice; Nancy Lutes, bassoon

  • 19 April 1999; Towson University (Towson, MD) — Towson University 20th Century Music Festival

    Heidi Dietrich Klein, voice; H. Gene Griswold, bassoon

  • 3 June 1998; Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ) — International Double Reed Society Conference
  • 13 March 1998; Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, LA) — LSU New Music Festival
  • 28 February 1998; University of Texas (San Antonio, TX) — UTSA New Music Festival
  • 5 December 1997; University of Texas (Austin, TX)
  • 1 October 1997; University of North Texas (Denton, TX) [premiere]

    Heidi Dietrich Klein, voice; Kristin Wolfe Jensen, bassoon


Program Notes: 

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).