Live performance, October 2013, Northern Illinois University.
Beginning life as a poetry cycle, Rachel Rising was turned into a song cycle, receiving its premiere performance in 2008, and excerpts and full performances have been presented in other venues since then. As that evolution is happening it is being presented in other forms, such as spoken word/performance and improvisation, and as of this writing, we are making plans for a “definitive” RadHaus recording of the cycle.
Rebekkah: Being part of the creative process on a work like this is an intense and fascinating experience. The original work is so deeply personal that I struggled to distance myself from it as we went through the development of the song cycle. I wanted the words to remain entirely intact, in service to the original poetic “catharsis” that was the genesis of the cycle, but in trying to lock it down in such a way, I gradually became aware that it was no longer mine — it never really had been — and not allowing it to breathe was in fact a disservice to the work, and to its eventual audience.
When composer Rob Deemer accepted the commission, he pointed out another complexity that took me a while to untangle, which is that I needed to separate myself-the-poet from myself-the-singer, too. As the poet, I had certain ideas, and as the singer, I had other ideas. And in the middle was Rob as the composer, who had ideas of his own.
To his great credit, Rob did an amazing job pulling the elements of the cycle together in ways I could not possibly have imagined (this is why I’m not a composer!), bringing a different vision to it, and evoking a wider range of emotions than I had imagined. He had the benefit of distance from the events that prompted the original cycle, which allowed him the freedom to create colors that I couldn’t see or feel from within the darkness.
We gave the work a second performance at our mutual alma mater (Northern Illinois University), in conjunction with a series of master classes on composition, text analysis, and preparing new works for performance. During the preparations that week, Rob and I both made minor alterations to both score and words, which added some refinement to the performance. It’s this second performance that we released as a digital album.
The performance was recorded by the engineering staff and students at NIU, and while it was good for a live broadcast and as an historical record (and Luis did an outstanding job mastering it despite the technical flaws), we think we can do better.
So now preparations are underway for a “definitive” studio recording of the work, which will bring together members of the second performance team (Rob, myself, and pianist Valerie Blair) along with a new team of chamber musicians from the Los Angeles area. This version will be submitted to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS, the Grammy people) in both performance and engineering categories, as it will be an exemplar of the unique RadHaus recording and production method.