Programme Notes

Karen Lemon - When I Am Not

When I Am Not (2020)

I can picture her – hugging herself against the wind and cold and yet transfixed, raw and rendered motionless by it, as if it were a creature with a life of its own. It speaks to her, transporting her to a state of ecstasy, beyond the here and now, an ecstasy that is calm, ethereal, warm in its embrace.

I confess that I was conscious of those eternal models, Erlkönig and Der Tod und das Mädchen. Not to mention Das Lied von der Erde. I do not pretend to do anything dramatically new in this piece; rather, through the lens of Emily Brontë, I followed their lead. Somehow for all the tumult of the storm, for all the tremor of the unknown, for all the expanse of the ecstatic eternity, it was the small voice of the protagonist, so solitary, so frail, that needed to speak. And somehow breath, and the taking away of breath, and the suspension of breath, and the seeming possibility of endless breath, was of paramount importance to me. And so my choice to present the text for a duo of voice and flute (albeit with tolling bells).

Buy now