The award-winning poetry of Ishion Hutchinson, set to music by graduate student composers, will be featured in a Saturday, March 18, concert in Barnes Hall, “Songs of the Land: Poems of Ishion Hutchinson.” The concert features pianist Xak Bjerken and guest mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway. The event is free and open to the public.
“I envy and value music for its secret inwardness, that instancing of emotion [which] words stand between and regulate like erratic traffic signal,” said Hutchinson, assistant professor of English. “It is then beyond honor, nothing short of jubilation, to have some of my poems set to music by these superb composers. I feel lucky to be in orbit, however slant and clandestine, with their brilliance and to have the wind-rush of my home help to signal the end of winter.”
“The great pleasure for me has been to be introduced and now immersed in Ishion’s poems, which are musical in so many ways,” added Bjerken, professor of music. “For the four composers who have set the selected poems, to see that they have produced such personal works that view and comment on the moods and images from such varying perspectives speaks to the quality of the poetry itself.”
Hutchinson’s collection, “Far District Poems,” won the PEN/ Joyce Osterweil Award, and his work has appeared in numerous anthologies. Bjerken, whose research interest is keyboard performance practice of the Second Viennese School, has appeared with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Spoleto Festival Orchestra, Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
In addition to the four poems scored by graduate student composers Barry Sharp, Charles Peck, Can Bilir and Jihyun Kim, the concert will also include lieder by Hugo Wolf and Alban Berg, as well as newer works by John Corigliano (“Dodecaphonia”) and Christopher Cerrone (“The Naomi Songs”). The concert will close with Ruth Crawford Seeger’s “Rat Riddles,” a set of three songs featuring oboist Emily DiAngelo and percussionists Michael Sparhuber and Brett Ransegnola, led by conductor Chris Younghoon Kim, associate professor of music.
Calloway, a leading interpreter of contemporary and modern music, was a finalist for the Warner Music Prize for her performance of the late Cornell Given Foundation Professor of Music Emeritus Steven Stucky’s and Jeremy Denk’s “The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts)” at the Ojai Festival in 2014. She has a B.M. from the Juilliard School and an M.M. from the Manhattan School of Music; she serves on the faculties of the University of South Carolina, Juilliard Summer Arts in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Cortona Sessions for New Music, Italy.
The event is sponsored by Ensemble X and funded in part by a grant from the Cornell Council for the Arts.
Linda B. Glaser is a staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.