The Blue Booby (2017) – for SATB choir and SATB quartet (10′)
-commissioned by The Esoterics (Eric Banks, cond.) as winner of the 2016/17 National Composer Award in their POLYPHONOS competition.
Blossoming from this stunning James Tate text and the eponymous creature Tate’s poetry is based on, the blue-footed booby, this work for a cappella chorus focuses on the gradually descending nature of the poetry and a slow drowning in the deepening shades of all-encompassing blue. The superfluous and jaunty nature of the first two stanzas, coupled here with a dose of pastiche, eventually and suddenly gives way to a heavy and austere descent, full of sensual sibilance in Tate’s slowly melting prose. Consonants and vowels blend together as the piece progresses, the blue muddling everything, until both are blurred as one and we’ve all been engulfed in a deep, sybaritic, ultramarine–an ode to my favorite animal, a rondo in blue. A quote from Tate:
“I love my funny poems, but I’d rather break your heart. And if I can do both in the same poem, that’s the best. If you laughed earlier in the poem, and I bring you close to tears in the end, that’s the best. That’s most rewarding for you and for me too. I want ultimately to be serious, but I can’t help the comic part. It just comes automatically. And if I can do both, that’s what I’m after.”