My Twentieth Century (2002)

(fl, cl, vln, vla, vc, pno)

music: Martin Bresnick
text: Tom Andrews

Tom Andrews and I got the idea for 'My Twentieth Century' during our shared time at the American Academy in Rome in the Fall of 1999. 'My Twentieth Century' is a descendant of Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire - without the chanteuse and in a more vernacular musical and poetic idiom. According to our plan, I have integrated Tom's text within the musical architecture of the composition by having the performers occasionally leave their accustomed roles as musicians and speak the lines of the poem to us, and to each other, as if in a heightened conversation. Tom completed the poem 'My Twentieth Century' shortly before he died suddenly in July of 2001. 'My Twentieth Century' is dedicated to his memory.

Da Capo Chamber Players, a 1999-2000 participant in Chamber Music America's A Musical Celebration of the Millennium, commissioned this work.

Support for this commission comes from The National Endowment for the Arts, the Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul Foundation, Susan W. Rose Fund for Music, The Helen F. Whitaker Fund, and the CMA Endowment Fund.

My Twentieth Century

I played hopscotch at twilight in the twentieth century.
I lived in a country of fireflies in the twentieth century.
I saw the moon shipwrecked in the twentieth century.

My brother died in the twentieth century.

I wore ridiculous clothes in the twentieth century.
I danced like a sumac tree in the twentieth century.
I went to a sensitivity workshop and had my umbrella stolen in the twentieth
century.

My brother died in the twentieth century.

I wasted three years on geometry in the twentieth century.
I was anesthetized through most of the twentieth century.
I loved Kawasaki in the twentieth century.

My brother died in the twentieth century.

I ate sweet apples in the twentieth century.
I ate my peck of dirt in the twentieth century.
I ate my words in the twentieth century.

My brother died in the twentieth century.

I wrote passionate letters in the twentieth century.
I was incapable of keeping silent in the twentieth century.
I shed pints of blood in the twentieth century.

My brother died in the twentieth century.

I leaned like a lampshade over my life in the twentieth century.
I prayed to the Son of Man in the twentieth century.
It was nearly possible to live in the twentieth century.

My brother died in the twentieth century.

There was something very obvious in the twentieth century
I could never see or understand.
The dead knocked on the door of my life in the twentieth century.

Who's there? I said.

— Tom Andrews
(adapted by Martin Bresnick)
'My Twentieth Century' is used by permission of the author.

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