Beauty and danger go hand-in-hand in life and in art. In many myths and in much poetry, beauty comes only through high-risk journeys where a wrong move can leave the beauty-seeker in darkness forever. The two texts in Pericolose -un giorno- bellezze shine light on this universal human predicament. Both texts, one 400 years old, the other modern, contain warnings not to take beauty for granted, not to expect it to be there for us if we are passive or too single-minded in our view of the world (“una gentile monomania” from the Zanzotto poem, addresses the latter). Rather than set these texts in a straightforward manner, I have liberally scattered fragments of them, combining the two to reflect one upon the other with the music reflecting upon both of them. Musical metaphors of contrasting “light and dark” images make up much of the vocal parts (soprano and chorus) and the computer-realized sounds as well. Pericolose -un giorno- bellezzeis a sequel to my piece Il Nome for soprano and computer-realized sound, which I composed in 1987. That work is also composed with a text by Andrea Zanzotto and from the same recitativo (text by Alessandro Striggio,) from Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. In that work, the subject was a specific act of horrific violence on the one hand and the depth of sadness associated with the loss of love on the other. While the new work is not quite the mirror image of the earlier one, it does have a somewhat more hopeful sensibility. There is, after all, still the possibility of finding beauty in life and art.
Pericolose -un giorno- bellezze, composed in 2000, was commissioned by the Northwest Chamber Chorus with support from the Seattle Arts Commission. Like my earlier composition Il Nome, this work was composed for soprano Judith Bettina.