• John Harbison
  • Closer to My Own Life (2011)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • 2(pic).2(ca).2(bcl).2(cbn)/
  • Mezzo Soprano
  • 19 min
  • Alice Munro
  • English

Programme Note

Text (English):
Alice Munro

October 16, 2011
Christine Rice, mezzo-soprano
The MET Orchestra
Fabio Luisi, conductor
Carnegie Hall, New York, NY

Composer note:
In her 2006 collection The View from Castle Rock, Alice Munro included some stories which had not belonged in her previous books of fiction. Why not? In the forward she explains "they were not memoirs but they were closer to my own life than the other stories I had written, even in the first person." Then, later — "You could say that such stories pay more attention to the truth of a life than fiction usually does. But not enough to swear on." Many of her characteristic themes appear on these "something-like-stories" revealing sources of the conflicts, joys, shadows, and surprises that have generated many of her fictions.

Most exceptionally, the closing strains of some of these tales include reflective summaries — adapted, with the author's permission, as the text for Closer to My Own Life.

There are four sections, responding to questions implied in Munro's words: where did we come from, what do we desire, how do we deal with our mortality, what do we remember. But the piece is also made from sounds and proportions which took shape during a very welcome re-reading of all Munro's fiction, before I had arrived at a text. I was aware of what constantly caught me in her writing — the ambiguity of the situations, the sudden fatefulness and decisiveness, the strangeness which also seems very close. These are qualities which may be in the vocal part, but also in the keen participation of the instruments, the eventfulness of an accompaniment which represents the presence of hidden disturbances or possibilities.

I am grateful to the Nash Family Foundation and to James Levine for the opportunity to work with words by the prose writer I love most, and to write for the matchless orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera.

— John Harbison