I’m very excited for Access Contemporary Music‘s performance of the has-been to beachey at the Ear Taxi Festival this Saturday!
A good portion of Carl Sandburg’s work is characterized by deep reflection on rough, visceral urban images. He’s almost always an observer – even a passer by – standing in either awe of or disbelief at what he’s seeing. What’s most striking to me, however, is the indifference of these crude realities to Sandburg’s moments of introspection. the has-been to beachey tries to capture this with a tapestry of images from two of his more mysterious poems: “The Has-Been” and “To Beachey, 1912”. These two poems don’t actually include these rough images from urban Chicago, but I still designed the piece around this concept. There’s still some clear musical documentation of images: a frantic horse ride, a strange shadow.
But the violin and cello quickly veer into indifference: the voice grandiosely professes a “love of the big blue beyond”, but the strings respond with quiet, mechanical plucking sounds, and then with highly distorted, faraway swing cabaret rhythms that unravel and disappear.
The voice does passionately reasserts itself (“only a man…”), and the strings join in, emphatically romanticizing Sandburg’s experience, then continuing with some lyrical introspection.
But the ending reprises this emotional disconnect, as the voice recites:
“The boy laughs and goes whistling: ee-ee-ee ee-ee-ee.
The stone face stands silent, seeming to clutch a secret.”