soprano, toy instruments, ensemble and processing

Premiere: March 7, 2007, Montréal / Nouvelles Musiques 2007: Méchants garçons!, Salle Pollack — Pavillon Strathcona — Université McGill, Montréal (Québec)

Il fiume delicatamente si torce.
Bello che sei fiumicino cadaverino.
Ti pescano.
Siedi come un cane.
Amelia Rosselli, Prime prose italiane (1954)

Written for soprano, ensemble, children’s and electronic instruments, Cane is the fourth and final work in a vocal cycle by Mauro Lanza, a setting of a selection of short prose poems by Amelia Rosselli (1930-96), who was a major Italian poet of the post-war era. After exploring the potential of toy instruments in his first movement “Barocco” (1998) and electronic media in what is now his third movement “Erba nera che cresci segno nero tu vivi” (1999-01, IRCAM), the composer brought both forces together with traditional instruments for his second and fourth movements “Mare” (2003-04) and “Cane” (2007).

Realized during his stint as the Daniel Langlois composer-in-residence at McGill, Mauro Lanza has described “Cane” as the epilogue to the cycle. “It is the longest part, and in a certain sense, the least autonomous with respect to the other movements. “Cane has no real beginning—it begins as the third movement (‘Erba nera che cresci . . .’) ends. Like parasites, the instruments begin to take their place in passages where the electronic media is less present, filling in gaps, underscoring resonances and progressively gaining more independence. In the sonic scheme of things, this final part is set apart from what came before by the heterogeneous nature of its materials and the fire nourished by the exchanges. In ‘Cane’ the three ensembles (two ‘real’ and one virtual) evolve as equals and recapitulate the main ideas of earlier works in condensed form. The re-exposition of ideas unfolds alongside changes in role in a sort of imitative game—while the electronic sounds have been exclusively percussive up to that point, they begin to simulate the reedy timbres of toy instruments and the high pitches of dolls. The ensemble struggles to reproduce the electronic sounds while the toys (obviously the least qualified for this game) attempt in vain to come together. The winner of this ‘battle’ is the ‘classical’ ensemble, which, accompanied for the final time by voice, concludes the cycle with a slow, almost funereal movement, crying the river personified, for which the poem stands ironically as an elegy.”

Mauro Lanza [English translation: C Flint De Médicis, i-06]

Performance