tu flos es

2016 | for solo double bass, three voices, and continuo | 6’

tu flos es is a concert solo suspended in social commentary, presenting the solo double bassist as a narrative protagonist operating within a complex musical and theatrical dreamscape portraying a female musician's formative experiences with sexism and abuse in a professional setting. As the musician in the story begins to develop a unique musical voice, she is first noticed and complimented—and later insulted and controlled—by those around her, and their comments begin to warp her artistic personality as she internalizes them. After a long struggle, the artist breaks away from that environment and those voices are silenced; she is alone with her own expression and emotion again, carrying the pain and knowledge of what has passed but more confident in the validity of her artistic expression and emotional needs.

A double bass fantasia on the Hildegard von Bingen chant "O rubor sanguinis" serves as the center of the story. Three vocalists play supporting roles, offering sung poetic reflections alongside spoken lines that antagonize the bass solo and react to changes in its mood and musical characteristics, and an unchanging cycle of triadic drones provides a harmonically and thematically unifying background for the ensemble. The text in the sung poetic commentary marries the Latin text of the von Bingen chant with a poem by another famous (and famously isolated) female poet, Emily Dickinson. All spoken text was compiled from journals, quotes, and lived experiences offered to me anonymously by female colleagues in music.

The result of these combinations is a drama of duality, simultaneously narrating and commenting on the struggles of women in the arts. It is this duality that eventually allows the protagonist to transcend her toxic environment: she faces the ugly realities of the world with a near-religious devotion to her artistic ideals. The constant presence of these musical ideals parallels the resilience of divinity in the face of evil present in the von Bingen chant; the use of the musical material in the chant itself to represent this elevates the need for artistic expression to the level of the divine. Ultimately, tu flos es condemns the silencing of women's artistic, intellectual, and emotional expression, and celebrates the fact that a woman who has something important to express cannot be permanently silenced.

tu flos es was written in collaboration with and premiered by Heather Beers. The artist at the center of this piece is a talented, sensitive, inquisitive, and above all courageous musician; Heather embodies all of these qualities and more. I am proud to have had her tell this story, and even more proud to call Heather a colleague and friend.

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