Tears – A setting of Text by Allen Ginsberg

When I was a teenager my father, perhaps to his regret, introduced me to the writings of the so-called “beat generation” authors. I quickly developed a fascination and admiration for their work. The text for this piece, Tears, is a 1956 poem by Allen Ginsberg. I found the poem to be extremely evocative for a couple of reasons. For one, the text juxtaposes a number of images that lend themselves to the juxtapositional style I have been developing in recent pieces such as Nothing but the Blood. Furthermore, the poems allusions to the Wobblies and to the music of J.S. Bach were particularly compelling to me as an individual.

The reference to Bach, in fact, turned out to be the seed of the pitch material for the entire work. The combination of listening to Bach and crying immediately made me think of the figure that occurs in the violins in the first measure of the Et Incarnatus Est from Bach’s B Minor Mass. I used this figure as a pitch-class set which is used throughout the work.

This is the premiere recording, from a performance given on July 21st, 2021 by Dora Ammerman (Soprano) and Sar Shalom Strong (Piano). The piece was composed for the 2021 Cazenovia Counterpoint Festival in Cazenovia, New York. Click here for the complete text of the poem.

This recording was featured on the September 5th broadcast of Fresh Ink, on WCNY-FM.

1 comment

  1. Kevin – just listening to this…a lot of movement in this piece – you seem to change gears a lot – but there is a continuity – perhaps held together by the theme the emotional experience(s) behind ‘crying’ – like a roller coaster – the ups and downs of it – the emotional sways – I think you capture quite well – so…well done ! Bravo !

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