Researcher: Dr. Matthew Schreibeis
Sandburg Songs was commissioned by the soundSCAPE Festival in Maccagno, Italy, for soprano Tony Arnold and the Eastman BroadBand Ensemble, who premiered the work in summer 2016. A 26-minute song cycle setting five of Carl Sandburg’s Chicago Poems, the work has been recorded by Tony Arnold, Zohn Collective, and conductor Tim Weiss, for Schreibeis’ Albany Records (USA) portrait CD. Sandburg Songs argues for a particular timbre-centered approach to writing for voice in the context of a large chamber ensemble. This approach is manifest in pre-compositional decisions, such as selecting poems that invite coloristic exploration, and in key aspects of the composition itself. Schreibeis investigates timbre through small- and large-scale color shifts—often linked to tempo changes—and, significantly, through extended passages for the ensemble alone. In this way, the instrumental passages represent Sandburg’s searing, vivid imagery through timbral transfers and dramatic scene setting, while the voice acts as a storyteller of shifting perspectives. For example, the slow first and third movements present a third-person viewpoint; the fast second and fourth movements are told from a first-person perspective. The fifth movement—the longest and most substantial in terms of musical weight—gives varied narrative perspectives. Related to these shifts in viewpoint, one particular aspect of the work’s timbral emphasis is Schreibeis’ exploration of the use of glissando throughout the cycle: as an expressive and harmonic device in text painting, scene setting, harmonic embellishment, and as a microtonal stretching of harmonic progressions. While the first four movements explore these uses of glissando in the instrumental ensemble, its development culminates in the soprano’s extended hummed vocalise in the final movement.
Sandburg Songs (selections) for soprano and ensemble (2015)
Tony Arnold, soprano
Tim Weiss, conductor
These two songs are part a larger cycle based on Carl Sandburg’s Chicago
Poems (1916), and were commissioned by the SoundSCAPE Festival
in Maccagno, Italy, for soprano Tony Arnold and Eastman BroadBand.