June 12, 1923

October 2006, Kessel-Lo

I was poundering for a long time to write something 'simple' for choir again. At the same time, Inge Feyen, who will be guest conductor of my choir Markant for the next half year, asked me if I had written music for choir on a text from the interbellum. She wanted to program a concert with music inspired by the period between the two world wars. And then I was reading Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf. I found this short text, which for me included the concept of the whole book:

It was all over for her. The sheet was stretched and the bed narrow. She had gone up into the tower alone and left them blackberrying in the sun. The door had shut, and there among the dust of fallen plaster and the litter of birds' nests how distant te view had looked, and the sounds came thin and chill, and Richard, Richard! she cried...

The story of Mrs. Dalloway is about a woman in her 50's. It tells about her activities and her thougths on one particular day, 12 june 1923. Hence the tittle of my work. She is afraid she has chosen the wrong man (Richard) to marry and has to resolve how to live with this.

I always like using texts which are, as an idea, not frequently used in choir music. This was what I did in Boycot as well as 4 and other compositions for choir. And this one fits in perfectly, I think. The idea of a middleaged woman asking herself if she made the right choice as a girl is something you don't hear everyday, certainly not sung by a choir.

As for the music, it had to be relatively simple. So I used my favourite 'scales of a fourth' again, but kept them quite tonal this time. The basic tone was F (midi note 43) and made a scale much like a major scale: 2 whole and one half tone. the result is again a scale that does not repeat itself every octave, but sounds quite tonal if you only use a small range of it. This way, every voice can sing semi-tonal melodies, while the entire result can be very dissonant. Apart from that, the tension between whole and halve tones became very important in the composition, that mostly tries to express the text at every moment.

I also tried to add some confusing elements to the music, because I think confusion is one of the key elements in the text. Therefore I mixed words from the text and placed them all on one line. To keep this simple for the performers, I divided this line into 2 voices singing a very simple canon. This way the text still makes sense to read, but a lot less if you listen to it.

Update: Since this work is part of 2 days in a life, which is selected for a composition contest by a publisher that will also publish the composition, i decided to no longer put the score online.

Another update: 2 days in a life got the award for choir music for mixed voices at Euprint's national choir composition contest, edition 2007. The score is can be bought at their website.