I wrote Dark Matter for the one-of-a-kind duo, Ums ‘n Jip (http://umsnjip.ch/umsnjip.htm). I met Ulrike and Javier while I was teaching in Istanbul, as they had connected with the Center for Advanced Studies in Music at Istanbul Technical University when they were in residence for the Turkey chapter of their international commissioning project. While I didn’t write for them at this time, I had a chance to observe Ulrike’s nuanced playing on her many different recorders and to hear Javier’s extraordinary range of vocal sounds and utterances.
Later, when they did commission me, I was faced with the task of deciding what to write for this duo who can do anything. I finally decided that I needed a text (I had considered writing an extended contemporary vocalise) and began the hunt for a poet I could set. I was looking for something current that would spark my imagination, but was not sure beyond that where to look or what I would find.
Sitting one day in the basement poetry section at McNally’s in Soho, I pulled Rae Armantrout’s Dark Matter off the shelf and was immediately floored by the work. I can’t claim to have understood it, but I was drawn into the quick and often contrasting images that flit between observations of the world around her, mass media, somber reflection, existential philosophy, and random interjection. I had my muse.
I ended up setting ten poems from this work. Though Rae was not in attendance at the premiere (nor was I, as it was in Switzerland and I could not attend), the three of us (Rae, Ums n’ Jip and myself) were in attendance for a poetry reading of Rae’s at the Zinc Bar downtown, during which Rae and Ums n’ Jip alternated reading an performing five poems from the set. I wish to thank Rae for allowing me to set her words, and for Ums ‘n Jip for commissioning the work and performing it so beautifully.