One to One to One (2016)
A setting of “The Finger” by Robert Creeley
Commissioned by the Arte Musica Foundation. Inspired by the work “At The Carnival” by Jim Dine at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
For millennia the Venus de Milo has been a symbol of beauty, grace and the feminine ideal. In his “At the Carnival” Jim Dine creates three renderings of that instantly recognizable figure, now headless and towering – at 14-feet tall – and carved in broad strokes with a chain saw out of immense trunks of redwood, then painted in harlequin colors. Yet Dine’s reverence for the female form is evident in every cut, and the piece’s overwhelming presence speaks to the power wielded by these intoxicatingly compelling women.
In 1969 the poet Robert Creeley, a good friend to the artist Jim Dine, published his lyric poem, “The Finger.” One of the longest poems in Creeley’s oeuvre, it is spoken by a man, reeling in the presence of a woman, and finding in her the almost emasculating power to demand his own performance as a man.
In One to One to One we hear three women, watching and laughing at our protagonist in his writhing, self-flagellating efforts to impress, or at least to comprehend the figure in front of him. These three women, observing a man, in turn observing a woman, are the creative palindrome to the three ladies of “At the Carnival,” passionately wrought by Dine and interpreted in music by myself, in this whimsical attempt to celebrate the eternal complication of each of us looking at the other. Our subject’s efforts ultimately come to no avail, and the best we can conclude is there in Creeley’s text: “And the power to tell is glory. One unto one unto one. And though all mistake it, it is one.”
Premiered May 16, 2016 by:
Jana Miller, soprano
Ellen Weiser, soprano
Kristin Hoff, mezzo-soprano