3 New York Blues (2011)

For mezzosoprano and ensemble.

With projection of auditory and visual images regarding New York City on texts from Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe.

Commissioned by Radio France

3 New York Blues
3 New York Blues

The composition is based on a strange bet: to write about a city I had never been to. The idea of New York “blues” is not less strange for me. This situation allowed me to have a faraway vision, detached from that city.

The research about the possible texts to set music to led me, away from the city, to texts by Lorch, and due to successive rebounds to Whitman and later to Poe.

The weave of the work oscillates between the midnight voices of the poets in opposition to force,  frenzy and the violent verticality of the city.

With Diego Pittaluga, producer of the video that “accompanies” the composition, we have presented a frame that allows us to focus on the music, and certainly not to the narrative plot because it would have resulted redundant. These images are at the same time the scenery and a tangible reference to objects that appear, veiled, within the music.

The voice of Sylvia Vadimova, that is lyrical but can easily and voluptuously take the character of the “blues”, has been one of the conditions for writing this composition.

Concert in the Centquatre on 15th May 2011.
Music: Luis Naón – Orchestre Philharmonique of Radio France

The texts:

Federico García Lorca

Oda a Walt Whitman (Ode to Walt Whitman)
…Ni un solo momento, viejo hermoso Walt Whitman,
he dejado de ver tu barba llena de mariposas…

Walt Whitman

I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city,
Whereupon lo! upsprang the aboriginal name.
Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, unruly,
musical, self-sufficient,
I see that the word of my city is that word from of old,

The countless masts, …
Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week,

The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing clouds aloft,
The winter snows, the sleigh-bells, the broken ice in the river,
passing along up or down with the flood-tide or ebb-tide,
The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form’d,
beautiful-faced, looking you straight in the eyes,
Trottoirs throng’d, vehicles, Broadway, the women, the shops and shows,
A million people–manners free and superb–open voices–hospitality–
the most courageous and friendly young men,
City of hurried and sparkling waters! city of spires and masts!
City nested in bays! my city!

Edgar Allan Poe
The City in the Sea

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers and tremble not!)

There open fanes and gaping graves
Yawn level with the luminous waves;
But not the riches there that lie
In each idol’s diamond eye—
Not the gaily-jewelled dead
Tempt the waters from their bed;
For no ripples curl, alas!
Along that wilderness of glass—
No swellings tell that winds may be
Upon some far-off happier sea—
No heavings hint that winds have been
On seas less hideously serene.
But lo, a stir is in the air! The wave—
there is a movement there!
As if the towers had thrust aside,

Down, down that town shall settle hence …

Walt Whitman

What hurrying human tides, or day or night!
What passions, winnings, losses, ardors, swim thy waters!
What whirls of evil, bliss and sorrow, stem thee!
What curious questioning glances–glints of love!
Leer, envy, scorn, contempt, hope, aspiration!
Thou portal–thou arena–thou of the myriad long-drawn lines and groups!
(Could but thy flagstones, curbs, facades, tell their inimitable tales;
Thy windows rich, and huge hotels–thy side-walks wide;)
Thou of the endless sliding, mincing, shuffling feet!
Thou, like the parti-colored world itself–like infinite, teeming,
mocking life!
Thou visor’d, vast, unspeakable show and lesson!

Federico Garcia Lorca
Oda a Walt Whitman

Y tú, bello Walt Whitman, duerme a orillas del Hudson
con la barba hacia el polo y las manos abiertas.

Duerme, no queda nada.
Una danza de muros agita las praderas
y América se anega de máquinas y llanto.


The Instruments:

Mezzosoprano, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Basson, Alto Saxophone, Trumpet, Horn, Trombone, Piano and 2 Percussion.

Percussion 1:

1 vibraphone 3 octaves.
A set:
3 cymbals (1 splash 2 rides)
Snare drum (without borbona)
2 tom-tom drum (mid and low)
Symphonic bass drum
Low gong (mi 1)

Percussion 2 :
1 marimba 5 octaves
un set constitué de haut en bas de :
2 cymbales rides (notés toujours en croix)
caisse claire (toujours sans timbre)
2 toms (aigu et moyen)
Tom contrebasse
Un Tam-Tam profond

Percussion 2:

1 marimba 5 octaves
A set:
2 ride cymbals
Snare drum (without borbona)
2 tom tom drums (high and mid)
Tom contrabajo
Low tamtam

[ Great ensemble / Orchestra ]