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Program note: Stephen Adams' "memory pieces"

  • by Nicholas Routley

Stephen Adams' memory pieces, like Geography Songs, sets a poem written in Australia in the recent past:  Ania Walwicz’ Memory.  This is a stream-of-consciousness prose poem, in the manner of Molly Bloom’s at the end of Joyce’s Ulysses, which attempts to make some sense of several experiences whose time-frame has become inextricably jumbled in the mind of the poet.  Adams’ setting gives it punctuation, rhetoric, highlights, and at times does what a sequence of words can never do:  superpose texts to be sung simultaneously.  His music ranges over a huge palette, from dream-states of languid reflection at the start of the third movement to the frenzied frustration of the end of the second:  “tell it—exactly like it was”, “tearing the past down”.  His setting is a reading, an interpretation of the poem, that is to say, it lets us understand the poem as he does; it is not an illustration of various details of the text in the madrigalian sense.

memory pieces was commissioned by the Sydney Chamber Choir in 1995; the work has also been performed across Canada and in Germany by the Canadian Ensemble de la Rue.

Nicholas Routley 2000


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