Texts by John Keats, Dylan Thomas (used with permission of New Directions Publishing), Pindar, Oscar Wilde, Paul Rochberg (used by permission of Gene Rochberg), William Wordsworth, and Mesomedes.
…the New York premiere of Jeremy Gill’s Ode: A Dramatic Cantata came in with a cacophonic density, taking its inspiration from several poetic texts…the fiery cello opening [of Dithyramb] was particularly exciting, performed by Gabriel Cabezas with hearty aggressiveness.
– Seen and Heard International, 17 December 2013
Wednesday evening’s program of new chamber cantatas by Jeremy Gill and Shulamit Ran…was both sonically seductive and thought-provoking as it explored the fluid border between the lyric and the dramatic. In Mr. Gill’s “Ode: A Dramatic Cantata,” [Lucy] Shelton drew on expressive modes from dramatic spoken recitation to ringing fortes and softly floated high notes. The piece sets Greek texts…to a vividly colored instrumental score for piano, cello and flute.
– The New York Times, 10 December 2013
Ode is an exploration of Greek lyric poetic forms: the dithyramb, honoring Dionysus; the paean, Apollo; the hymn, in this case, the sun, the “Father of snow-eyed Dawn.” These, together with the ode, constituted the principal lyric poetic forms of Ancient Greece. Of these, only the ode is concerned with mortal man, and is used expressly as such as the title of this piece, because Ode is also a meditation on mortality, our struggles against it, attempts to overcome it, mourning at confronting it, and finally accepting it.
I have chosen to set Pindar and Mesomedes as representatives of their time, and Keats and Wordsworth as admirers of Ancient Greece (their respective Odes are celebrations of that past). Oscar Wilde and Paul Rochberg are two voices of regret—Wilde for wasting time on vain pursuits, Rochberg for a life prematurely stolen from him.
There are many echoes of other musics throughout Ode: the Seikilos Epitaph (the earliest known complete piece of music, from the first century AD) is heard in its entirety, but so are bits of Monteverdi (Orfeo), Puccini (Tosca), Mahler (Rückert Lieder), and others. Each of these latter is fragmented, as are nearly all of the texts, as if each were being heard centuries from now, in part, without context, their meanings largely obscured and only sensed, not known.