San Francisco-based composer Erling Wold (1958) made his reputation with the soundtrack to Jon Jost's film The Bed You Sleep In (MinMax, 1993).
His first major opera,
A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil (premiered in 1995, revised in 2001 as Die Nacht wird Kommen) was based on a Max Ernst collage novel.
Spoken-word blends with suave minimalist repetition of instruments and female voices in Academy Of Science, all solemnly buried by the
melancholy aria of the contralto.
The Tenebreuse boasts a section of flute-driven progressive-rock and folk-rock driven, quite a contrast with the
austere chamber lied First Prayer And Tenebreuse 2.
The first half of the unsettled The Hair pits the anguished female choir against the manic repetition of the instruments.
Celestial Bridgeroom, the last and most complex movement, opens with
circus music followed by jovial repetition, but then sinks into a somber
kammerspiel. The ending is again an exuberant march but the voices tear it
apart in a last eruption of pathos.
He had debuted with
The Waste Land (1978), that scored Eliot's poems for piccolo, flute, violin, vibraphone, percussion, piano/celesta and soprano, and had already scored a soundtrack for Jost:
Sure Fire (1990), country music in just intonation.
Baron Ochs (1985), for two keyboards and solo instrument, and Hawaii Five-O (1985), for three keyboards,
were included in Baron Ochs (Spooky Pooch, 1986).
Music of Love (Spooky Pooch, 1988)
includes a four-movement suite for musicbox and
Dance of the Testifiers (1987) for flute, vibraphone and percussion.
I Weep (1990) includes
It was in the Summer that I first Noticed your Hair, your Face, your Eyelids (1988) for flute, clarinet, oboe, bells, piano and bass,
the electroacoustic Egg Dance (1989),
Seven Days Ago (1989) for organ, flute, horns and vibraphone,
and the Piano Concerto No. 4 (1988).
13 Versions of Surrender (Spooky Pooch, 1996), a song cycle for piano, bassoon, cello and voice,
and I Brought my Hips to the Table (1998) were
based on poetry by Michelle Murphy,
and originally conceived for theater and dance.
London Brief (Other Shore, 1997), Homecoming (2004) and La Lunga Ombra (2005) were also soundtracks for Jost.
This was followed by ambitious works such as
the opera Queer (Spooky Pooch, 2000), with a libretto drawn from the book by William Burroughs,
the opera Sub Pontio Pilato (2003), with libretto by James Bisso,
the interactive dance opera Blinde Liebe (2005),
and the mass Missa Beati Notkeri Balbuli Sancti Galli Monachi (2006).
Mordake (MinMaX, 2010), with libretto by Douglas Kearney,
is an electronic opera for solo tenor and chamber orchestra.
It tells the story of a two-faced man
(probaly conjoined twins at the head or craniopagus twins).
After the hypnotic Overture, the opera reaches a dramatic peak in
What have you Done
and a melancholy peak in My Sister My Love, the latter fueled by gamelan-like percussive patterns, a loud organ drone and strings.
YKCYC/ UKSUS (2012) was an opera buffa on the life and times of Daniil Kharms.
He also composed the scores for several dance and theater projects, such as
Modules and Loops (1992),
In the Stomachs of Fleas (2009),
Lights Beneath My Skin (2013) was a cycle of songs on texts by Sirje Viise.
The chamber opera Certitude & Joy (MinMax, 2015) for soprano, baritone, actors and two pianos premiered in 2012 with a libretto inspired by the true story of a woman who in 2005 was told by God to throw her three children into the San Francisco Bay.
The first scenes are dominated by thundering pianos, but the interplay of recitation and singing is more effective in The Sun was so Bright and sometimes (My Momma Ran Over the Cat) quieter piano makes for stronger emotional impact.
Peaks of pathos are reached in the solemn ode of
Dear Father Dear Jesus and in the turbulent crescendo of the twin ending pieces,
How is Heaven Holding Up? and
I want to See You
(that also boasts the most disturbingly piano pattern).
He cofounded the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra.
He also wrote a number of pieces for a dancer-controlled interactive video and music system for Palindrome dance.
He co-composed the scores for several Deborah Slater Dance Theater projects with sound artist Thom Blum.
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