Kate Soper, Only the Words Themselves Mean What They Say (2010-11)
Duration: 12 minutes
Instrumentation: Voice and flute, with text by Lydia Davis
Premiered by Kate Soper and Erin Lesser on Feb. 19, 2011, at Tenri Concert Hall in New York, N.Y. (the MusicNOW concert March 7, 2016, marks the work’s Chicago premiere).
The composer writes:
“I wrote Only the Words Themselves Mean What They Say out of a determination to test my limits as a vocalist and performer and an itch to make something out of Lydia Davis’ fabulously quirky, slyly profound texts. Writing as a composer-performer opens up the pre-compositional realm to lots of useful improvisatory tangents and fresh timbral discoveries. Working closely with flutist Erin Lesser led to many happy surprises that eventually made their way into the final score. Lydia Davis’ words suggested an unhinged virtuosity and idiosyncratic, multi-layered musical reading that took me from screwball comedy to paired musical gymnastics: the flute becomes a kind of ‘Iron Man’ suit for the voice, amplifying it to new planes of expressivity, intensity and insanity as the two players struggle, with a single addled brain, to navigate the treacherous labyrinth of simple logic.”
About the composer:
Kate Soper is a composer, performer and writer whose work explores the integration of drama and rhetoric into musical structure, the slippery continuums of expressivity, intelligibility and sense, and the wonderfully treacherous landscape of the human voice. Her first portrait album, “Voices from the Killing Jar,” was released on the Carrier label in 2014. She recently rolled out her first opera, Here Be Sirens, in a production by New York’s Morningside Opera/Dixon Place. September brought the premiere of Ipsa Dixit, an evening-length cycle of duos and quartets for voice and instruments. On the horizon is an operatic retelling of The Romance of the Rose.
Soper’s music has been described as “exquisitely quirky” (the New York Times) and “epic” (WQXR-FM); as a performer, she has been praised as a “dazzling vocalist” (New Yorker magazine) and likened to “Lucille Ball reinterpreted by Linda Blair” (Pitchfork Magazine). A professor of music at Smith College, she is a co-director and vocalist for Wet Ink, a New York-based new music ensemble dedicated to seeking out and promoting innovative music across aesthetic categories.
To hear a live recording of the first movement of Only the Words Themselves Mean What They Say, click here.
To watch a studio-produced video of the entire work, click here.