Kingʼs Complaint is a product of the pandemic that crippled the better part of our world for more than a year. In the summer of 2020, when arts organizations were shuttered throughout the United States, I collaborated with guitarist Oren Fader to create a video recording of Diario dun Camiño, a solo guitar work that I wrote while walking the Camino de Santiago in northwestern Spain during happier times. Orenʼs wife, mezzo-soprano Jessica Bowers, helped Oren create the video, and she and he, as the Bowers Fader Duo, asked me to compose something new for them to perform together.
Meanwhile, my wife and I had embarked on a separate pandemic project: to watch the complete plays of William Shakespeare, most of which exist in wonderful productions by The Globe, available online. As we progressed, I noted various passages that struck me as potentially set-able, in case they might come in handy for some future projects. I set one such passage—from Henry VI, Part III—much sooner than anticipated in Kingʼs Complaint. Here, King Henry VI, his realm besieged by internal wars for which he has neither the stomach nor the antidote, laments his lot and wishes away his life and kingdom.
John Dowlandʼs lute songs are an easy model for any work for voice and guitar. That Dowland was a contemporary of Shakespeare made my choosing to emulate his tone and (less precisely) his style all that easier. Moreover, I had spent the month of October 2020—another pandemic project—composing a set of variations for solo piano on a specific lute song of Dowlandʼs that had obsessed me for years, and his music was still quite fresh in my mind.
These three threads come together in Kingʼs Complaint, which can be heard as an homage to Dowland and to Shakespeare in equal measure. I hope, too, that it becomes a vital addition to the Bowers Fader Duoʼs now extensive catalog of music composed explicitly for them.