The Woman and the Lyre, for voice, flute, cello, piano, and electronics, is a multi-faceted musical work that integrates elements from various disciplines including poetry, drama, and movement. The text is drawn from fragments of poetry by the ancient Greek poet Sappho as well as interpretations of her work by the 20th century Canadian poet Bliss Carman. Different approaches to electroacoustic performance practice are used to enhance the emotional meaning of the text. These approaches focus on the relationship between the performer’s actions onstage and the resulting sounds, aided through the integration of live electronics. The performers interact with these electronics both with gestural controller systems and video tracking, and have varying degrees of perceived control throughout. Electronic processing is used to enhance the instrumental sound and create diverse sonic environments that serve the dramatic narrative of the composition.
The Woman and the Lyre is comprised of two large parts: Sapphic Cycle, and Fayum Fragments. Sapphic Cycle is a musical setting of four poems from Bliss Carman’s work Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics. Fayum Fragments is inserted between these movements and consists of ten short miniatures, presented in variable order. Each of these miniatures musically evokes text fragments from a recovered papyrus attributed to Sappho. This portion of The Woman and the Lyre involves the singer also taking on the role of conductor: the performer’s physical gestures, tracked by a Leap Motion sensor device, determine which miniature will be performed at any given moment, thus creating the variable form of the composition. The Woman and the Lyre, therefore, while consisting of many layers of material, is unified by integrating the electronics as an important component of the narrative and form.