Four Poems of Li-Young Lee (2012)
for Jessica Aszodi and Bonnie Whiting
Jessica Aszodi, soprano
Bonnie Whiting, speaking percussionist
I had made an earlier attempt to set the poetry of Li-Young Lee but shied away from the project, partly because I didn’t want to upset the lyricism of Lee’s work. After I chose these four poems for this duo, which included Bonnie Whiting who specifically asked to perform as a speaking percussionist, I knew that I wanted to have her recite all the poetry “straight.” Her recitation of the poetry has no edits or repetitions. The percussion shadows the poetry, affirming the poetic content in various ways. A more distant shadowing comes in the form of the soprano whose presence both vocally and on stage emerges gradually. The listener, therefore, must tend to the two performers’ three “voices,” which each occupy distinct musical and conceptual spaces. Intersections among them are subtle and occasional. The surreal fourth poem “Station” casts all three voices into new roles, and they finally move together for a few brief moments.