Scott Robbins, composer
Vocal Solo Works
Click the button to learn more about each piece, including information about obtaining scores and recordings.
mezzo-soprano, violin, cello, celesta
Leave it to Rilke to make angels creepy. These three songs feature text passages from his Duino Elegies. Ever since I read the line "every angel is terrible," I was hooked and knew I had to set these. If you believe spooky, post-Expressionistic music can beautiful, these are beautiful.
NACUSA Young Composers Award, 1995
HM: Tampa Bay Composers Forum Composition Competition, 1995
Bees: 5 Poems of Emily Dickinson
female voice and recorded accompaniment
Emily Dickinson's poetry gets set to music... a lot. She's actually the most frequently set poet. Aaron Copland did a great job in his 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson, but sometimes it seems like all the other composers copy him, so what results is a bunch of settings that sound like Copland--bad Copland. Bees is my attempt to present Dickson's words in a different musical environment, one that includes electonic sounds, and references to hip-hop and soul music. It definitely doesn't sound like Copland.
Blue Ridge A Cappella
female voice, flute, English horn, violin, cello, piano
(also female voice, flute, English horn, piano)
An arrangement of the earlier version of Blue Ridge A Cappella, written in Salt Lake City during what may well be the most productive airport layover of my life. You can get a lot of work done in those sky club lounges--definitely worth the $25 cost of a day pass.
The Imprisoned Soul
female voice, flute (+alto), clarinet (+bass), percussion, violin, cello, piano
Many people know this Walt Whitman poem by its other title, The Last Invocation. That's certainly a fine title, but if the book I'd been reading had used that title instead of The Imprisoned Soul, I'm not sure I would have been drawn to this text, which alludes to how the soul seeks both haven within and freedom from the body. It's a moody, atmospheric work, spare in texture, and with beautiful, long vocal lines.
Thamyris Composition Prize, 1994
HM--Vocal Music: Composers Guild 27th Annual Composition Contest
Recorded for Col Legno-Aurophon Recordings
Just Like Job
tenor, flute, oboe, cello, piano
Commissioned by SC Music Teachers Association and MTNA, this is one of my favorites. It features Maya Angelou's poetry and some truly wonderful allusions to blues, gospel, and rock music (does it quote U2 or Tom Petty? Maybe so.)
FIrst Prize--Vocal Music: Composers Guild 33rd Annual Composition Contest.
Lovesick Birds From Appalachia
female voice, flute, oboe
Chris and Kelly Vaneman wanted a work for Ensemble Radieuse that featured flute, oboe, and female voice. I heard the Corigliano Three Irish Folksongs for tenor and flute, and those inspired me to create folksong settings. I chose Appalachian folksongs about birds, which featured a variety of musical modes and moods. The singer for Ensemble Radieuse at the time was named Lydia, so the last song is an original song in Lydian mode. (Good thing her name wasn't Locria.)
Lullaby: A Motion Like Sleep
female voice, piano
Another work from my "beautiful atonal music" phase, this is a setting of Robert Penn Warren's poem, written while I was awaiting the birth of my daughter, India. The music is rather wistful and haunting, with a Joseph Schwantner/George Crumb-like atmosphere, featuring whistling and gong playing by the singer.
Two Songs For Soprano, Violin, Viola, And Guitar
Another piece for the Hopkins, this time for Joe's wife, Suzanne. The original intention was for these songs to be paired with the Two Songs for Baritone and Guitar, so I used the same approach: a setting of Rumi texts (including a new setting of the one I set for baritone and guitar), followed by a setting of a folksong. In this case, the folksong is the Irish song The Foggy Dew. Both of these are quite lovely. The task that remains is for me to write a final song that combines soprano, baritone, violin, viola, and guitar so that the entire set can be performed together.
Whar All To
female voice, flute, oboe, guitar, cello, piano
Not a lot to say about this one--it hasn't been performed yet. There's this really neat short story by Romulus Linney called Tennessee, and that's where the text for this song came from. Someday...
Windblown Secrets Where My Heart Should Be
female voice, piano
Beverly Hay was a great voice teacher for many years at Converse--that's how I came to know her. She also writes poetry, and I chose to set these five from the poems she shared with me. They're neat poems because they reflect the voice of someone who has spent a life in music. These are very straight-forward song cycle-type settings (compared to what I usually do), but there are still some oddball moments when quotations from J. S. Bach or the spirit of Gershwin songs show up.
The Wounds We Live In
female voice, piano
These poems by Rick Mulkey are based on the life of Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel. The first song is entitled The Well Tempered Clavier and depicts Hensel as a frustrated, 13-year-old child prodigy, hungry for her father's attention and constrained by 19th-century ideas of proper feminine behavior. An instrumental interlude in the style of brother Felix's Songs Without Words transports us to Sontagsmusik, which finds us at the end of Hensel's days, where she reflects on her life as a musician, and provides the piece with its title: "who's to say that the chords we hear aren't the wounds we live in?"
Two Songs For Baritone And Guitar
Written at the request of Joe Hopkins and Michael Patilla, who performed these piece extensively and wonderfully. The first song is a setting of Rumi's Don't Even Think--Just Let Yourself Dream, and the second is a setting of Shady Grove, a traditional folksong, also done by Doc Watson, the Grateful Dead, and Mudcrutch. When I found out what a great guitarist Michael was, I went back and wrote a virtuosic passage in the middle of Shady Grove. I like music that allows us to hear familiar songs in a new way, and this setting of Shady Grove certainly accomplishes that.