Theodore Presser, Carl Fischer, Boelke-Bomart/Schott/Mobart, Songs of Peer, and Warner-Chappell are distributors for Katherine's music.
When asked to write some songs my thoughts turned to a most unusual book titled "Izok Amar - Go", or Central American Women's Poetry for Peace, edited by Zoe Anglesey. The book is printed in Spanish and English, with some poems, and the title, in Mayan as well. The title means "women going forward with love, not bitterness".
Many of the countries of Central America have the inherently unstable situation of a large population of "peasants" - largely poor and Native American - and a very small group of extremely rich non-Indian landowners. The latter tend to control the government and army as well as the land. During the 1980's, Nicaragua and El Salvador experienced prolonged struggles that stemmed from these harsh disparities, and one is currently active in southern Mexico. In Guatemala, the military government has carried out systematic "actions" against the Mayans, who are a peaceful, artistic culture. These have included forced removal and massacres. The award of a Nobel Peace Prize to a Guatemalan Mayan woman, Rigoberto Menchu, in 1992, focused international attention on the situation, and helped to curb the atrocities.
The poems come directly from these struggles for freedom and integrity, and reflect the lives of women caught up in these events.
Movement I, The Woman of the Huipil is based on "The Word" by Celina Garcia. Movement II, Remedies is based on a poem by Virginia Grutter ; translated by Janet Rodney. Movement III, Prayer for a son disappeared is based on a poem by Maria Perez Tzu ; transcribed from Mayan and translated by Ambar Past.
This composition is based upon 'The Testament' by François Villon (1431-1463). Translated by Galway Kinnell. It premired January 1985 by Hindell, John Cheek String Quartet in Merkin Hall, NY.
Francois Villon was a major lyric poet, a scholar, and a man of great excess. He was imprisoned several times in his short life, and banished from Paris in 1463, shortly after he wrote The Testament. It is presumed that he died about this time. The full text of The Testament runs about 75 pages. Some of it is obscure, some scatological; all of it is fascinating. There are rage, sorrow, beauty, and a poignant regret, as well as a voracious appetite for life and an indomitable spirit. Last but not least, there is the poetic bravura of acrostics and word games woven through the serious and satiric ballades and chansons.
In choosing selections for this piece, I have tried to give a distilled picture of the main subjects in The Testament - revenge, sorrow, lust, love, and death. Villon's searing directness and sharp satirical bite are splendidly caught in this translation by the American poet Galway Kinnell.
This piece is a setting of a poem by 18th Century English poet Thomas Gray(1716-1771). The poem is a spoof - odes are generally serious, philosophical works - so I felt free to add musical spoofs of my own. The word "gold" triggers a short cadenza whenever it appears; the clarinet plays the cat, even to a purr; and the goldfish are surrounded by impressionistic "watermusic". As for any anti-female or anti-feline sentiments expressed I confess I viewed them as part of the spoof. Greed is not, and never has been sex-specific; however, humans as a species excel at it.
|I.||That white peony||(Gyodai)|
|III.||Now that eyes of hawks||(Basho)|
|IV.||The snake departed||(Kyoshi)|
|V.||For a lovely bowl||(Basho)|
|VI.||But if I held it||(Buson|
|VII.||I have known lovers||(Anonymous)|
Seven songs for voice and piano based upon poems by Teasdale and Wickham.
Anna Wickham was a little known Australian poet who lived from 1884 to 1947. She trained as an opera singer, but spent most of her adult life in domestic pursuits in England. Some of her work was quite outspoken for its time, voicing frustration with the constraints on women's lives. She published two small books of poems. The American poet Sara Teasdale (1884 -1933) wrote primarily of nature, love, and love's disappointments, and was widely published and anthologized in her lifetime. She died tragically, a suicide.
These poems appealed to me for their directness, and for their portrayal of a variety of moods: from delight to despair, from love to contempt, from courage to a chilling look at the folly of war. Each of these poets let her heart speak out strongly in her work, and I chose the title to reflect that quality.
Three songs based on Mayan poems.
Anonymous medieval poem.
Inspired by Robert Frost's Acceptance; Robert Frost, 1874-1963.