BitterSweet explores the passage from inner darkness, through the beginning of hope, towards light. At the heart of the work are three poems from the collection Pribehy/parafraze (Stories/paraphrases) by my late grandfather, the Czech poet and translator Jan Vladislav. The sonic material comes from various sources, including the sound of my grandfather’s voice reciting the three poems, the motet Tristis est anima mea by Orlando Lasso, James MacMillan’s Sun Dogs, and four folk songs. Other poetic materials include excerpts from Arthur Rimbaud and Antonin Artaud that my grandfather’s poems make reference to, as well as a text written for the piece by Robert Glick. I thought of BitterSweet as a passion, and chose to give it a rather contemplative character, since Lent – and indeed other rites of cleansing and renewal – is a time of inner reflection. The choir is often just one of the layers of sound within the electronics that create slowly shifting textures.
In early 2013, Spiritus Chamber Choir, conducted by Tim Shantz with two soloists, Nina Hornjatkevyc and Katie Warke, gave the first performance of BitterSweet: a Passion.
Here is a recording of the premiere with translations of text and score excerpts: