Space, in Chains

A song cycle for soprano (or mezzo) and viola

October 10th, 2016

Premiered in Weill Hall of Carnegie Hall

Melissa Wimbish, Soprano
Jessica Meyer, Violist

Vocal Range: A3 to B6

“A world-premiere ensued; how many times do you encounter that at an art song recital?… Ms. Meyer uses both extended and traditional techniques in her music, drawing on her years of experience as a professional violist. The most haunting of these, for me, was her gentle drumming on her instrument…”

New York Concert Review


“Space, in Chains” is a set of three songs using the text of acclaimed poet Laura Kasischke. Her poetry is a series of abstract, yet vivid, episodes that paints a surrealist portrait of everyday suburban life and these three particular poems address loss in very different ways.

My deepest thanks to Melissa Wimbish for making these come alive during her Carnegie Hall debut in October of 2016.

Space, in Chains (mvt 1)

Things that are beautiful, and die.

Things that fall asleep in the afternoon, in sun.

Things that laugh, then cover their mouths, ashamed of their teeth.

A strong man pouring coffee into a cup. His hands shake, it spills.

His wife falls to her knees when the telephone rings. Hello? Goddammit, hello?

Where is their child?

Hamster, tulips, love, gigantic squid.

To live.

I’m not endorsing it.

Any single, transcriptional event.

The chromosomes of the roses.

Flagella, cilia, all the filaments of touching, of feeling, of running your little hand hopelessly along the bricks.

Sky, stamped into flesh, bending over the sink to drink the tour de force of water.

It’s all space, in chains—the chaos of birdsong after a rainstorm, the steam rising off the asphalt, a small boy in boots opening the back door, stepping out, and someone calling him from the kitchen,

Sweetie, don’t be gone too long.

Rain (mvt 2)

The sun, made of water, like all the secrets made of tongues—
it falls all night,
and in the morning
the flames have been put out

and the stones,
bewitched, can see:

The lost hours,
and into the past.

The memories of infants, of cats, of other stones—that they have souls. That they are souls.

And the terror of foxes.
And the children’s hospital.
And the hangman’s alarm clock. And the official on the doorstep.

And all the embezzled
cents and dollars
of the last time I saw you.

O Elegant Giant (mvt 3)

These difficult matters of grace and scale:

The way music, our savior, is the marriage of math and antisocial behavior.

Like this woman with a bucket in the morning gathering gorgeous oxymora on the shore…

And my wildly troubled love for you, which labored gently in the garden all through June, then tore the flowers up with its fists in July.

Which set a place for you next to mine—the fork beside the spoon beside the knife (the linen napkin, and the centerpiece: a blue beheaded blossom floating in a bowl)—and even the red weight of my best efforts poured into your glass as a dark wine before I tossed the table onto its side.

Just another perfect night. Beyond destruction, and utterly unlikely, how someone might have managed, blindly, to stumble on such a love in the middle of her life.

O elegant giant.

While, outside, the woods are silent.

And overhead, not a single intelligent star in the sky.