Difficult Grace (2020)

after Dudley Randall

for violoncello and live electronics

Premiere: Seth Parker Woods, cello, Seattle, February 2020

Commissioned by Seth Parker Woods for Octave 9, Raisbeck Music Center

As Seth Parker Woods and I brainstormed a project that would simultaneously feature his voice and cello playing, I asked if he would be willing to share several authors and works that were important for him. In reading through these, I was struck by Dudley Randall’s poem, “Primitives” –  and Difficult Grace began. I wanted to create a musical process, a kind of sonic network of relations that would set Randall’s original poem in dialogue with itself in musical time, both verbally and sonically. In Difficult Grace, I hoped to create a work where aspects of Randall’s poem (rhythms, durations, phonetic timbre, syntax and meaning) would generate each musical gesture (even the title is a line from this poem); and Seth’s voice and cello would be the instrument – all of the sounds in the live electronics layers are untransformed recordings of his performance.

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