Three Art Songs for Soprano and Flexible Media

Program Notes:

Commissioned by soprano Mikaela Sullivan for performance in April 2014, Excursus explores the methods in which modern television broadcasting attempts to fulfill different facets of human desire, thus propagating the continued use of the medium. The composition consists of three songs, each of which focuses on instinctive desires, quick fixes that palliate, or intellectual satisfaction. Current television programming attempts to satisfy these desires and fabricated need with sitcoms, pharmaceutical ads, and political slander, respectively.

Instead of communicating this message traditionally via voice and piano, prerecorded media serves as accompaniment to the soprano. I make the distinction in the title that the work calls for “soprano and flexible media”. This word choice stems from the desire for the media to truly act as an accompaniment; therefore, I constructed a set of twenty advancing electronic tracks, each of which have head room to quickly crossfade into the following clip. While utilizing Max 6 in performance, an “accompanist” advances these tracks upon careful observation of the vocalist and knowledge of the score.


I. …filmed in front of a live studio audience

Oh, don’t mind me!
My brother, please don’t mind me!
I just dropped by to catch the show.
My cable is out and I will die if I miss this episode!

Hold on there, sis. Hold on. What show is this one now?
The one where women compete for approval from one “ideal” man,
where adultery is commonplace, where love is currency,
where all are rejected but one “perfect” bride?
Hmm, ‘sure sounds like quality television to me!

My brother, oh, mon frère,
don’t be a smart ass and turn the tv on.

I did, sis. It is on.

It is on? But there’s no picture, no sound or tone.
There’s no picture, no sound, no show…only static.

II. please see your doctor…

For years, I let Toxi dietalitis ruin my life.
My daughter’s soccer games, my weekly yoga class, I missed them all
because I let Toxi dietalitis ruin my life.
But now Instalax lets me run through life
without life running through me!

Side effects may include:
headaches, flashes of light, mild tendinitis,
as well as erectile dysfunction.
You may experience headaches, heartburn, hair loss,
constipation, high blood pressure,
headaches, heartburn, hair loss,
bleeding, swelling, sweating, itching, nausea, cancer,
spasms, seizures, jaundice, and in some rare cases death.

Stop taking Instalax and call your doctor right away
if you experience any dizziness, amnesia, suicidal thoughts,
frequent shortness of breath, dry mouth, chest pain, facial flushing…

For years, I let Toxi dietalitis ruin my life, don’t let it ruin yours.
Please see your doctor if you think Instalax might be right for you.

III. …and I approve this message

We all make mistakes.
We learn from them, correct them, and move on.
But some mistakes are too big to forget:
My opponent promised us privacy for citizens and transparency from the state.
Instead, the roles were reversed.

We all make mistakes.
We learn from them, correct them, and move on.
But don’t, no don’t forget about the sexting scandal with a young intern half his age.
Or his support for voter restrictions, claiming that racism was dead!

But let’s move on.
And what about his promises to bring our troops home?
But they are still overseas!

Let’s face facts.
We can’t afford my opponent’s mistakes.
We can’t afford four more years of blunder.
We can’t afford to turn a blind eye!
I am __ ! and I approve this message.