Music Musicology Poetry Gallery

for soprano, cello, and percussion
Needham Series
1982; 13:26 min.


Vocalise is based on a surrealistic poem from the composer's German volume Tönungen (1955-1967). It consists of three movements and is based on the interpretation for voice and instruments of a computer-generated score produced by way of Koenig's Project One score generator.

In the first movement, the text is used in a free English translation, while the second movement employs the German original. The third movement uses no text at all, which explains the composition's title. In this movement, vowel changes are at the discretion of the singer (L. Heller). In the different movements, the composer captures different facets of the poem, making the appropriate choices in the underlying score and its orchestration.

The first two movements are based on my surrealistic German poem Engel (Angel; 1955) from Tönungen:


drink the chalice
of bitter metal;
no horizon greets
frenzied prayer
with heaven's laurels.

things around you
cloy with Daphne
(as you are Peneius,
overflowing rivergod).

no one swims in you
but a god of planks
who undoes you.

a cold sunset blows
through the teeth of combs;
in a rose boat
the angel intones.


trink den bittern kelch
rasender monstranz;
keine grenze welch'
himmlorbeern grüßt.

alles, ferner, ist
(wie du Peneus bist,
gott im überfluß).

keiner in dir schwimmt
als ein brettergott
der dir alles nimmt.

auf den kämmen kalt
bläst ein abendrot,
und der engel lallt
in dem rosenboot.

The work was premiered during a 1983 New England Computer Arts Association concert in Little Kresge Auditorium, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.