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June 29, 2012
International Festival of Arts and Ideas
New Haven, CT
Additional notes on instrumentation
soprano 1 – also plays suspended sizzle cymbal
soprano 2 – also plays glockenspiel
alto 1 – also plays ratchet and woodblock
alto 2 – also plays conch shell and concert bass drum
1. he was and she was
3. a different man
4. the wood and the vine
5. right and wrong
6. you will love me
7. forbidden subjects
8. as love grows stronger
9. the outing
10. i live in pain
11. head, heart
12. mild, light
My piece love fail is a rewriting of several episodes from different medieval versions of the doomed courtly love story of Tristan and Isolde, interleafed with settings of my own texts, Richard Wagner’s libretto and stories by Macarthur Prize winning author Lydia Davis. My original idea was to create a piece that would honor Anonymous 4’s longstanding commitment to medieval music, while at the same time feeling completely up to date. At the ensemble’s suggestion I looked at the lais of the medieval author Marie de France, and I was struck by how in her retelling of the Tristan and Isolde story Isolde is never named, even though she is clearly an equal in the narrative.
I started wondering what would happen if all the names were removed, along with all the events or objects or details that would locate the story within a particular time, or with a particular set of lovers. What remains is the skeleton of the story, the outline of a relationship that is spare enough to remind us of our own modern lives. To this I added other spare retellings of details from other medieval love stories, along with several emotionally acute stories by Lydia Davis, creating out of these little scraps a larger narrative that makes them feel as if they describe a single relationship, gone hopelessly wrong.
love fail will be presented in a simple theatrical setting with effective lighting, simple sound enhancement, and will also employ a range of small instruments for Anonymous 4 to play, including autoharps, whistles, bells and simple percussion.
Lang's latest major work, "love fail," a Postmodern take on the Tristan and Isolde legend written for the forever popular Anonymous 4, reached Royce Hall on Saturday night, UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance having helped commission it. There is, if not perhaps a name, at least a commonplace description for this uncommon music: sublime beauty...
Words and music do an excellent job of casting a spell...Lang's look at love is mature and slightly detached yet full of feeling. His exquisite vocal writing is homophonic and uses open harmonies that are somewhat reminiscent of Arvo Pärt's spiritual Minimalism. He exalts in the purity of tone that is the angelic trademark of Anonymous 4.
But there is also a typical underlying Langian subversion to "love fail." The sources are wide, even including a touch of wisdom from the Yom Kippur liturgy. The new texts, and especially those by Davis, are musically aphoristic, and float gracefully on Lang's languidly long melodic lines.
Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, 02/12/2012