Available for recordings after April 2015.

  • 2vn, va, vc
  • Baritone
  • 13 min
  • Billy Collins
  • English

Programme Note

Billy Collins

Composer's Note:
A piece for baritone and string quartet can, legitimately, be nothing more — or nothing less — than a song group, or cycle, with the strings standing in for the more usual piano. But if you're awarded the privilege of making music for a singing actor of the caliber of Thomas Hampson, and for young musicians of the caliber of the Jupiters, you want — well, I wanted — to compose a piece that's both a substantial monologue and a structurally rewarding string quartet at the same time. Billy Collins' pellucid Aristotle made that possible. His poem is built in three long but continuous sections, each spinning numerous, surprising variations on some necessary (to the philosopher) element of drama — beginning, middle, end. The range of Collins's images nudged the string writing into new (for me) colors and registers while demanding each movement retain its own character. However, while Collins's language was minutely expressive of his narrator's observations, it remained reticent about his emotions. How does the singer experience, rather than merely list, "the letter AY the song of betrayal, salted with revenge ... the hat on a peg, and, outside the cabin, falling leaves?" The poem doesn't tell you, so the vocal line must: which made the baritone's music needful, urgent, dramatic rather than merely decorative. Aristotle the poem is about drama. As well as a tribute to the artistry of its performers, I intend Aristotle the score as a drama itself.

— Mark Adamo


Phlip Cutlip, baritone; Canite QuartetComposer Note

Mark Adamo