Roger Reynolds: last things, i think, to think about

Available at Neuma Records as of January 2017

last things, I think, to think about (1994) Baritone, piano, and tape

Liner notes by Joshua Cody in English Complete lyrics (by John Ashbery)

Primary Artist(s): Philip Larson, Baritone, Aleck Karis, Piano

Label: EMF CD 044

Dates of recording: 2002

Recording, editing, mastering: Josef Kucera


Like Archipelago, last things is a kind of mosaic: the ten discrete settings of poems (drawn from disparate parts of Ashbery’s career) are musical islands floating in the stream of an eleventh poem, called Debit Night, that Ashbery wrote specifically for the work. Ashbery taped a reading of Debit Night under Reynolds’ supervision, and the recording preserves Ashbery’s unaccompanied voice but stereophonically spatialized it. The tape was then divided into ten fragments that are distributed throughout the work as intercalations between the movements of the work proper, suggesting both continuity and fragmentation, two different approaches that characterize the music’s “reading” of the poetry in a general sense. An archipelago, as it were, of songs in a sea of spoken words: but whereas the elaborate musical mosaic of the earlier Archipelago was, according to the composer, “purely architectural in notion – the plan for the work was entirely devised before any music was composed” – last things is an exercise in spontaneity, the composer reacting to the poetry with the same capricious immediacy that Ashbery (of all poets) demands of his reader: “the associative mobility of human thought caught while musing,” as Reynolds described it.

– from the liner notes