Earlier this autumn, Philadelphia-based composer Melissa Dunphy premiered her new work “June,” a pair of songs for baritone and electronics at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, as part of a collaboration between Network for New Music and Voice of this Generation. The text is a set of poems by Lauren Rile Smith, in which the narrator describes two different, consecutive months of June.
Of the performance, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns wrote, “Best of all was Melissa Dunphy’s “June.” Baritone Brian Ming Chu’s unaccompanied voice was electronically reprised in canonic counterpoint, growing into four or five voices playing leapfrog with one another. The first of the two songs explored Lauren Rile Smith’s poem about the lethargy of summer heat with great poetic control, neatly scaling back the electronic activity when necessary but ultimately conveying, with considerable mastery, the delirium of congested thought patterns. More, please.”
The song, for unaccompanied voice, can be performed in any register. Released this weekend: a recording featuring soprano Jessica Lennick.
In the hot room surrounded by fans, touching
my dirty fingertips, sweating inside my shirt.
The house is a slow oven. I go shopping in my own past–
those well-worn handles, broken jars, alone with you.
Can you let me know, the sound that travels back.
And then I was in the hallway with the big empty cart,
its hollow boom that echoed with each roll. A perfect mess.
Why wouldn’t you just say hunger? Why wouldn’t you?
I take the long way there. It’s been a year and I’ve got
time in a pocket, fingerprint bruises,
deep breaths that make clouds. The running stops.
The rush of days don’t care about your heart.
Where were we, with the sky ripening
at sunset, with the branches forming cages overhead?
Where were your words? Now, I am: soundless, happy,
another pin on the trestle, spoke on the wheel.
–Lauren Rile Smith, 2012
Melissa Dunphy discusses her process here.