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vocal works

MISHB’REY YAM (1999)
5 songs for high voice and piano

• Duration: 20'
• Text: Yehuda Halevi (Hebrew)
• Commissioned by the Kentucky Music Teachers Association
• Premiere: Rebecca Miller, soprano, L. Bitensky, piano, 1999 Kentucky Music Teachers Association convention, 10/31/99
• Recognition: Winning entry, 1999 Music Teachers National Association - Shepherd Distinguished Composer of the Year
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)


1. Zeh ruchacha; 2. Kiru aley; 3. Hava mabul; 4. Etsak b'leyv nameys; 5. L'cha nafshi

Yehudah Halevi, the “sweet singer of Zion,” was one of the foremost poets and philosophers during the Golden Age of Hebrew culture in medieval Muslim Spain. Described by Heine as “God kissed,” Halevi was born in Toledo sometime before 1075 and was also active as a physician, businessman, and courtier. Noted for its profound lyricism and passion, individuality, mastery of language, and skillfully woven allusions to scripture, Halevi’s poetry is generally regarded as one of the greatest achievements in the long history of Hebrew poetry. In addition to his poetry, Halevi’s legacy also includes the important philosophical treatise known as the Kuzari.

In 1140, Halevi set out on a perilous journey to his beloved Palestine, abandoning friends, family and the prosperous world in which he flourished. The texts in this cycle are from a larger set of poems that depict the emotions and dangers of this journey. Legend relates that in 1141, Halevi finally reached the ruins of the Holy Land and was murdered by an Arab marauder while singing his famous “Ode to Zion.”

The English translation is original, yet borrows heavily from Nina Salaman’s 1924 translation based on the critical text edited by Heinrich Brody.

"The rhythms of the music . . . give an evocative improvisatory effect -- and are deeply related to the rhythm and inflections of the Hebrew Language. The result is powerful. Lyrics and music combine to paint a profound portrait of a man facing both the depths of fear and loss and the heights of anticipation and faith as he sails the mighty seas on a pilgrimage, which he is compelled to make, but from which he well knows there might be no return. The listener is drawn to Halevi's experience in a personal way as his journey (both outward and inward) is depicted through Hebraic chant-like vocal lines woven closely together with compelling and intricate gestures in the piano to form a rich tapestry of sound." In Mishb'rey yam, the communication does not get lost. The music originates in a deep place and communicates to a deep place. . . In his song cycle Mishb'rey yam, Bitensky sings of some of the secrets of his quest--and 'his whole heart is in the singing.'" -- Patricia Plude, National Composer Commissioning Chair, MTNA, The American Music Teacher, June/July 2000

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VAYASHAV HAMAL'ACH (1997)
1 song for high voice and piano



• Duration: 4’
• Text: Zechariah (Hebrew)
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)


Vayashav hamal'ach is a setting of the Hebrew text chanted on the Sabbath of Chanukah.

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THE DRIFT OF THINGS (1997)
4 songs for medium voice and piano



• Duration: 15'
• Text: Robert Frost (English)
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)


1. My November Guest; 2. Afterflakes; 3. Desert Places; 4. Reluctance

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DOCTOR KNICKERBOCKER AND OTHER STORIES (1993)
4 madrigals for vocal quartet (SATB) and percussion

listenscore

• Duration: 14'
• Text: Children’s folk rhymes (English)
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)

1. Blue Bells; 2. In the Old Boarding House; 3. She Sells Sea Shells; 4. Doctor Knickerbocker

Dr. K is a campy romp based on a variety of children’s folk rhymes- tongue twisters, jump rope rhymes, etc. Like all good children’s rhymes, they serve to ameliorate children’s fears of worlds they can’t understand. Thus, the texts are rife with allusions to sexuality and taboo subjects such as death and cannibalism. The model for this piece is in some respects the 16th century madrigal, with its overdone word painting, similar veiled allusions to sex and death, and frequent double meanings. The texts are treated more or less straightforwardly in the first three songs. In the last madrigal, a variety of different texts are woven together in a polyphonic tapestry.