A Sonatina

voice, piano, and optional speaker

Duration: 6 min.

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was a pioneering modernist in American literature who endeavored to create in literature the same objectification and immediacy of thought that her friend Picasso had created in his Cubist paintings. At times she went even further, making language into a fascinating abstraction, which has long appealed to me as a composer, as has her musical perspective of language, her use of repetition, and the seeming simplicity of her supposed "difficult" works. This text comes from a very long poem, "A Sonatina Followed by Another,” which she wrote in Vence, France in 1921. According to her friend and collaborator Virgil Thomson, the title refers to her habit of improvising "sonatinas" on the white keys of the piano, though she had no musical training whatever. Although the poem is filled with charming though fleeting images of her stay in southern France, I have extracted lullaby-like bits of the text that often seem to refer to her life partner, Alice Toklas.