for soprano/narrator and ten instruments
text by unknown sources, possibly including George Sand and others (see below for explanation)

Orchestral version of this work also available (scored for full orchestra double winds, no soprano).

First performance May 3, 2008
Wet Ink Ensemble, Kate Soper, soprano, Carl Betterdorf, conductor, NYC
12' duration

spoken/sung text
"Find the devil's lead. i am going to send him home.
disappear in the crowd and never to be heard of, brought.
Then llew rose rose out of the bath, and put mr villiers.
Here was a young man handsome enough keep you occupied for hours on end.

there are year's day, 1840, a letter curiously destitute, blessed thing for you both, and i have no doubt making his conscience appropriate every line in somewhat in advance of his age. He appears to the ladies with the air of a foreign equerry."

_unattributed sources, possibly George Sand and others.

text explanation
I searched for many months for a workable text to set.  I wanted one that would be simple and left things to the imagination.  Something that music could express that text could not.  In searching through poems and short quotes of larger stories, I found many texts that were ultimately too limiting for the music.  I wanted to set text, but didn't want the text to dictate the music’s meaning! 

One day I received a spammed email from an unknown source containing the exact text of this piece.  An unsolicited note that, for a change, wasn't selling anything and expected no response.  It is possible this text was created using a computer program that randomly cuts up source text (in this case, literary sentences and phrases), to create nonsense.  It is meaningless as a complete thought, yet quite seductive in its implications.  I searched for the source texts of these literary phrases.  I found a short story by George Sands that might have been incorporated, but most of the source text is from unknown authors. 

What attracted me to this text was the juxtaposed and unrealized implications of these different source texts.  The more I read this email, the more it appeared there was a meaning in each unfulfilled implication, in each absurd conclusion to every lovely phrase.  Each phrase became important as implying a larger story that wasn't there.  The phrases are sometimes beautiful "Here was a man, handsome enough to keep you occupied for hours on end," and sometimes simply bizarre, "and i have no doubt making his conscience appropriate every line in somewhat in advance of his age."  The specificity of each word became more important;  the beauty in each word as a pointer to a story that didn't exist. 

I derived my own meta-story to this text, involving a woman who finds the devils lead, and then takes the devil home.  She is as seductive, tricky, and otherworldly as the devil himself.  She sets out to outdo the Devil at his own game!  It is a story that traverses time and place (the year 1840; the 19th Century use of English phrases).  She finds the devil in the little details of everyday life, and is able to put the devil in his place without being seduced by him. 

Each phrase in this text comes from a different source, and implies a different story.  Later phrases do not answer questions left by earlier ones.  Each spoken phrase is an event in and of itself.  Yet, they all add up to an unspoken meta-narrative. 

This text was not meant to confuse the listener, but the text is confusing.  The listener, therefore, is encouraged to accept these words as part of an untold story.  More importantly, the music is a continuous and strikingly linear musical expression with which the disjunct text shades the musical experience. 

The last movement is a convoluted, disintegrating setting of the first two measures of a song by The Pixies, who in their own music conjured up the Devil beautifully.


Find the Devil’s Lead

Find the Devil’s Lead

2 minute excerpt

Wet Ink Ensemble

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