Becoming a Redwood(2003)
The song cycle Becoming a Redwood, which sets the poetry of Dana Gioia, was composed in 2003 as a gift to Laitman's husband on his 50th birthday.
Photo: California redwoods, public domain photo courtesy of the National Park Service
Becoming a Redwood explores the themes of love, death, and healing. The poetry is extracted from Gioia's volumes The Gods of Winter (1991) and Interrogations at Noon (2001).
"The emotional centerpiece of my cycle Becoming a Redwood is the song 'Pentecost.' This poem was written after the death of the poet’s infant son. The opening weaving melodic line (derived from the first song’s main theme) hovers over an ostinato bass figure, representing haunting memories. Another significant vocal cell, first appearing with 'when memory/Repeats its prosecution' is constructed of repeats, echoing itself and suggestive of keening as well as the rocking motion that accompanies grief. This motif reappears in a new guise ('nor any prayers/Improvised to an unknowable god') depicting improvisation. The use of these melodic and harmonic repetitions creates great tension, leading to the climax 'comfort me with stones.' Here dramatic octave leaps portray grief in its full force. The song returns to the repetitive melodic motif (“mix our ashes”), now suggestive of the image of stirring. The music culminates in a wordless vocalize, which hints at a diminished but prevailing sadness."
The composer's note and the second audio clip for "Pentecost" (provided in the media player to the right) are made possible through a collaboration between the Hampsong Foundation and SongFest. The performers are Faylotte Crayton, soprano, and Jessica Rucinski, piano, and this performance took place at Pepperdine University at SongFest 2010. To listen, please click on the track itself.