In an effort to save some happy trees, in lieu of program notes, please find below the texts and some notes from our composers for our 2019 commissions and other pieces.

Chicago and Toronto 2019

I Give You Back (Composer: Annea Lockwood, Text: Joy Harjo)

I Watch You Beheading (Composer: Bekah Simms, Text: Maggie Burton)

The Return of the Repressed (Composer: Binna Kim, Text: Louis Bourgeois)

Louis Bourgeois was a French-American painter, sculptor, print-maker and large-installation artist. Her work explores themes of childhood trauma, sexuality, motherhood, domesticity, and abandonment. These poems are Louis Bourgeois’s own words, and not tied to specific paintings but all related to her works during that period. These are writings were made during the most intense period of psychoanalysis she underwent. She kept all her agendas and diaries including dream recordings that reflect the interconnections between her own psycho-analysis, her readings of psychoanalytical literature (That is where the title “return of the repressed” is from, the term by Freud), and her eccentric artistic output. 

1st movement

1) I do not search, I find

2) I do not take (take take take), I give

3) I do not fall asleep I wake up

4) I do not hide I expose

5) I do not cry I laugh - (laugh laugh laugh)

6) I do not look at the floor or the curtains

I look at you - I am free

7) I look at you

2nd movement

There I am -

I ought to say

Thank you

for being

alive -


I am

In pain

I am



I am


3rd movement

Never let me be free from this burden that will never let me be free

4th movement

I am afraid to lose my time

my knowledge

my money

my balance

my possessions

my security

my affections

my way

to lose control

I am afraid that things escape me

and that people abandon me

or separate themselves from me

Shuffled Notes from ‘A Guide to Drag Kinging’ (Composer: LJ White, Text: Franny Choi)

Excerpts from Notes From “A Guide to Drag Kinging: from On Crossing:

It suggests a movement toward or away from, as if one’s been juggled out of place and is waiting to land back in the proper basket. A still photograph of a motorcyclist, caught mid-air through a jump, a dolphin between leap and crash, a fluke. Pin the tail on the number line between points A and B... bring both ends of the railroad track around, bend it into itself to kiss its own tail. Then watch the train rumble around in the grass fenced in with iron.

From Packing Instructions:

As you prowl the sidewalk, cross the stage, lights hot and bright on your face, on the front of your pants, feel it hanging, shifting with each step, strapped tight into shorts. Armed and ready, standing at attention. Soon, you will find it affecting your walk, longer lunges that land like declarative sentences. Make way, clear the streets. You will find your pelvis stretching wider as it remembers cowboys in cigarette jeans lounging astride leather saddles. Thy kingdom come. Swagger forward, dipping with every other step, heel-toe. Lope forward in straight thick lines, a coughing pickup truck, more shoulder than hip, more engine than oven. Drive forward into the spotlight and stand on sturdy beams. Grab the bulge and hear the high-pitched screams and squeals from long-haired women in the audience, slender arms in the air, flailing for you. Catch the kisses and catcalls with a snarling nod. You are steel and broad shoulders. You are sleek snaps and gliding punches. You are swing and knuckle and hard. You are a marvel.

Shuffled text:

I. Packing Instructions

As you/ sidewalk, cross the/ and bright on/ on the/ of/ pants, feel/ shifting/ each step/ ready, standing/ will/ affecting/ land like/ way/ the streets/ will/ your walk/ wider/ it remembers/ cigarette jeans/ saddles. Thy/ swagger/ every/ heel-/ in straight thick lines/ shoulder than/ more/ than/ drive/ the spotlight/ sturdy/ grab/ hear/ -pitched/ -haired/ audience, slender/ the air, flailing/ and catcalls/ you/ are swing/ hard. You// stage, lights hot/ front/ your/ it/ strapped/ shorts/ and/ at/ soon you/ longer/ that/ sentences/ find/ stretching/ cowboys in/ lounging astride/ kingdom/ forward/ with/ -toe/ forward/ forward/ the/ the/ the/ screams/ squeals/ in the/ arms/ you/ the kisses/ with snarling/ snaps and gliding/ and knuckle/ are// prowl the/ your face/ hanging/ with/ tight into/ armed/ attention/ find it/ your/ lunges that/ declarative/ make/ clear/ you/ pelvis/ as/ leather/ thy kingdom come/ dipping/ other step/ lope/ a coughing pickup truck, more/ hip/ engine/ oven/ into/ and stand on/ beams/ bulge and/ high-/ and/ from long-/ women/ in/ for/ catch/ a/ nod/ are sleek/ punches. You/ and/ You are a marvel.

II. On Crossing

It suggests a movement toward or away from [a fluke] as if one’s been juggled out of place [been juggled] and is waiting [a fluke] to land waiting to land back in the proper basket. [a fluke] A still photograph [a fluke] of a motorcyclist a motorcyclist caught mid-air [a fluke] mid-air through a jump, a dolphin [a fluke] a dolphin between leap [a fluke] and crash, [waiting to land] [as if one’s] a fluke. [back in the] [waiting] [a dolphin] a fluke. Pin the tail on the number line the number line between points A and B... bring both ends of the railroad track around, around, bend it into itself, into itself, to kiss its own tail. Then watch the train rumble around, rumble around, in the grass fenced in with iron. bring both ends of the railroad track around, bend it into itself... Then watch the train rumble around, around

Text by Franny Choi, used, excerpted, and shuffled with permission. Notes From “A Guide to Drag Kinging” first appeared in Apogee Journal, Issue 2 (© 2013 Apogee Journal) and is published in Floating, Brilliant, Gone (© 2014 Write Bloody Publishing.)

Points Against Fields (2015) by Sam Pluta

Songs from the Post-Truth Era (Composer: Karim Al-Zand, Text: Charles Lamb, re-worked by composer)

Facts are a feeble match for belief. Emotion trumps observation. Lie and truth are transposable, reason and fellow-feeling abandoned. Words careen though the air, cleaved from their meaning, simply sounds in the void.

It is a Post-Truth Era.

This short song cycle is based on a poem about telling the truth: “Incorrect Speaking” by Charles Lamb, a didactic verse taken from his 1809 collection Poems for Children. Lamb’s poem is used as the first song’s text. I derive the text for the following two songs as “vocabularyclept” poems, a technique that preserves all the words from an original poem, but rearranges their order and syntax. The new poems, “The Charm of Anna” and “The Supply of Flies,” generate unexpected, humorous and contradictory meanings—and eventually produce no meaning at all.

Incorrect Speaking

Incorrectness in your speech

Carefully avoid, my Anna;

Study well the sense of each

Sentence, lest in any manner

It misrepresent the truth;

Veracity’s the charm of youth.

You will not, I know, tell lies,

If you know what you are speaking.

Truth is shy, and from us flies;

Unless diligently seeking

Into every word we pry,

Falsehood will her place supply.

Falsehood is not shy, not she—

Ever ready to take place of

Truth, too oft we Falsehood see,

Or at least some latent trace of

Falsehood, in the incorrect

Words of those who Truth respect.

—Charles Lamb

from Poetry for Children (1809)

The Charm of Anna

Unless we are seeking to pry the truth

From my words of youth,

Carefully avoid the charm of Anna:

She is not shy, not shy in any manner.

If you study well your speech,

And diligently misrepresent into each

Sentence, lest it supply

The what, will, who and know,

Incorrectness will take Veracity’s place—you see?

In her place, we sense, flies some latent trace of oft.

Speaking of Truth:

In truth, every word of those you respect is

Falsehood, Falsehood, Falsehood, Falsehood!

(Or is at least incorrect.)

The Supply of Flies

Take carefully each speech

Pry every sense from my sentence

Speaking, seeking

Of youth, of truth,

Or of lies

We will ready the supply of flies!

I, you, my, we

Study your veracity’s You see? Incorrectness

if, of, oft

the will, the well, the words

We respect, incorrect Truth, shy, truth

(Place into you-know-who) Falsehood, shy, falsehood

it us, in lest, at least, in some not word, what know, those are

Not to avoid charm

Truth is she any?

Unless in latent her manner too diligently is...

Of truth tell not ever


Tamora Monologues (Composer: Theo Chandler, Text: William Shakespeare, re-worked by composer)

The text for Tamora Monologues is taken from Shakespeare’s gory revenge play Titus Andronicus. The most interesting character of the play is Tamora, Queen of the Goths, whose monologues are full of grotesque and visceral imagery. Clearly Shakespeare put considerable thought into crafting her rhetoric, which she uses to manipulate other characters in her pursuit of vengeance. I imagine that this cunning woman in a position of power, who uses her own sexuality to get the best of powerful men, was scandalous for 17th century audiences. Each movement of my piece corresponds to a scene featuring a monologue by Tamora.

In the first movement, Tamora pleads for Titus not to execute her first-born son. He ignores her plea, and from here the narrative is set in motion; Tamora spends the rest of the play plotting her revenge on Titus.

TAMORA – To Titus

Stay, Roman brethren! Gracious conqueror,

Victorious Titus, rue the tears I shed,

A mother's tears in passion for her son:

Sufficeth not that we are brought to Rome,

To beautify thy triumphs and return,

Captive to thee and to thy Roman yoke,

But must my sons be slaughter'd

For valiant doings in their country's cause?

O, if to fight for king and commonweal

Were piety in thine, it is in these.

Andronicus, stain not thy tomb with blood:

Wilt thou draw near the nature of the gods?

Draw near them then in being merciful:

Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge:

Thrice noble Titus, spare my first-born son.

The second movement corresponds to a scene in a forest, in which Tamora seduces Aaron for leverage, and later convinces her sons to avenge threats against her.

Have I not reason to look pale?

These two have ‘ticed me hither to this place:

A barren detested vale,

Here never shines the sun; here nothing breeds,

They told me, here, at dead time of the night,

A thousand fiends, a thousane hissing snakes,

Would make such fearful and confused cries

As any mortal body hearing it

Should fall mad, or die suddenly.

They told me they would bind me here

And leave me to this miserable death:

Revenge it, as you love your mother’s life.

In the third movement, Tamora has wrongly become convinced that Titus has gone mad, and attempts to deceive him in his feeble state. The first half of the movement is devoted to her outlining her plan, and the second half involves her meeting Titus, pretending to be a personification of friendly Revenge, sent to help Titus overcome his foes.

King, be thy thoughts imperious, like thy name.

Is the sun dimm’d, that gnats do fly in it?

The eagle suffers little birds to sing,

And is not careful what they mean thereby,

Knowing that with the shadow of his wings

He can at pleasure stint their melody:

I will enchant the old Andronicus

With words more sweet, and yet more dangerous,

Than baits to fish, or honey-stalks to sheep,

When as the one is wounded with the bait,

The other rooted with delicious feed.

Know, thou sad man, I am not Tamora;

She is thy enemy, and I thy friend:

I am Revenge: sent from the infernal kingdom,

To ease the gnawing culture of thy mind,

By working wreakful vengeance on thy foes.

Confer with me of murder and of death:

There’s not a hollow cave

Where bloody murder

Can couch for fear, I will find them out;

And in their ears tell them my dreadful name,

Revenge, which makes the foul offender quake.

In a needlessly gruesome final scene of the play, Tamora, along with a handful of other characters, are killed. The fourth and final movement takes place after Tamora has died, and the text is from Lucius’s final words about Tamora, proclaiming her unworthy of a funeral for the acts she has committed. My music for this movement serves as the funeral Lucius refused her.

No mournful bell shall ring her burial;

But throw her forth to beasts and birds of prey:

Her life was devoid of pity;

And shall have like want of pity.

No funeral rite, nor man in mourning weeds,

For that heinous tiger, Tamora.