Remarks
(2018)

for sixteen singers

 

I'm currently preparing more performance-friendly parts. In the meantime below you can find a PDF of the original score (Cambridge: 2018), and here is a note from the score typeset: 

Towards the end of Titus Andronicus, one of Shakespeare’s early plays, Titus’s brother, Marcus Andronicus, addresses the room; his speech follows two hours of terrible violence, featuring no fewer than six severed members. In these concluding remarks Marcus Andronicus calls on us to take responsibility, to put back together what has come apart—literally, to remember the play’s events. ‘O, let me teach you how to knit again’, he speaks.

    The notation of sung music inhabits a strange space in the complex web of relations that exists between text and music, between notated and oral traditions, between singer and conductor. In the context of Remarks, knitting and remembering take centre stage. It’s a composition that ultimately examines notation: what it can say and what it cannot, the importance of those things that cannot be said, and the importance of acknowledging the shortcomings of attempts to label them.

    Extracts from a talk given by Berio entitled Remarks to the Kind Lady of Baltimore are spoken throughout the piece. Berio discusses how music relates to the world around us, how it relates to language, to words, and how it relates to ourselves. The layered talk culminates in a climax in which Berio describes people facing each other in two fronts; ‘the issue’, he remarked, ‘appeared to be mainly a disagreement about terms rather than the things themselves’.

    In a similar vein there are two musical fronts which clash in this piece: one without words, in which the voices are almost instruments, the other with words, sometimes inhabiting an Elizabethan social dynamic familiar to the Shakespeare. As the dialogue progresses throughout, the piece teaches itself how to sing.

    Linking all this is the tangled doctrine of the authority of a descriptive score. Across the two musical systems the notation of dynamics, of articulation and so on, adapts to the social dynamic, in opposition to or in cooperation with each other. These conflicts are reflected in Berio’s words, resolved in Shakespeare’s moral, and celebrated in Darwin’s regard of ‘endless forms most beautiful’.

Stephane Crayton