R. E. SMITH - australian composer & educator

FEAST – Performed by Masters candidates at the Manhattan School of Music. Conducted by Melissa Panlasigui

A suite for Pierrot ensemble inspired by the sculpture Ugolino and His sons by French artist Jean–Baptiste Carpeaux, currently residing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.  Pisan count Ugolino della Gherardesca, condemned to die of starvation, yields to the temptation to devour his children and grandchildren who cry out to him. This suite adapts the text from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno Canto 33, setting it in a way that plays with the idea of empathy in the face of horror. Read the text here

Inferno: Canto XXXIII
Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy

A narrow puncture in the mew
whence from me is named the Famine Tower,
and in which others will still be locked,
has shown me moon after moon after moon
when I dreamed the evil dream,
when I slept the evil sleep,
which rived the veil from my future.
Before the morrow was awake
I heard my sons weep and ask for bread
to slake their hunger.
Cruel you are if grieve you not
thinking of what my heart forebode.
And if you weep not now, then when?
They did awake as the hour drew nigh
when the food was to be brought,
but the dream of each misgave him.
I heard them then enchain the door
of that wretched tower, whereat without a word
I turned to gaze into the faces of my sons.
I wept not; I within turned to stone.
As now a little glimmer made its way
into the dolorous prison and I saw
upon four faces that mirrored my own.
I bit upon my hands in grief.
Thinking this came of savage appetite,
forthwith they uprose and said
‘Father, we should grieve far less
if you would eat of us!’
I kept my spirit down in stillness
that I should spare them worse misery.
That day we all fell silent, and the next.
Ah, callous earth! Why did you not open?
Thrown prostrate at my feet
my Gaddo cried ‘Father, why don’t you help me?’
And down he fell with deadened weight.
I saw three more fall, one by one,
and I, now blind, groped o’er their bodies.
I called for them.
Then hunger got the mastery of grief.

– adapted from Longfellow and Cary translations by R. E. Smith and Gianmarco E. Saretto

Movement I Introduction
Movement II Dreamer
Movement III Moon
Movement IV Weeds
Movement V Mastery
PERFORMED: 21st April 2015, Greenfield Auditorium NEW YORK 
BROADCAST: Live Webcast for MSM ISC 22nd April 2015, Miller Recital Hall NEW YORK


Text by Andrew Nye

The suspect witnessed within her eyes all visible astronomical phenomena.
The moon waxed and waned the sun galloped its path through the constellations stars spun around the celestial pole like a nude dancer dusted with glitter
He predicted the coming rains calculated his exact location with a sextant and threw dice into the cosmic abyss
Would you like to have coffee?
The motion of her lips instigated a riot in the frontal lobe of his cerebral cortex
His ears quivered with the music of the spheres and for an instant, he knew the outcome of all things
He wanted to rest his head on her shoulder feel the shores of her warm skin on his cheek
As she stood to leave, handing him her card
he glimpsed between the peaks of her cuspids a marvelous brown bear swimming in the sea.
PERFORMED: 9th April 2015, Miller Recital Hall NEW YORK


DRAW PULL DRAG – Performed by Jordan Rutter (countertenor) and Calvin Chan (‘cello)

Text by K. T. Billey – “The Long-Fingered Draw”

How satisfying, the decisive snip through something thick.
Did you imagine it as construction paper children? Dried reeds by the river?
I want those instruments to be my home.
I want to hear the storm crack and suppose tectonic
swell when the table gives out under me and you
hold eye contact.
Take three trains.
Come over and tell me I don’t need brass knuckles to kill this spider.
Tell me again.

PERFORMED: 30th April 2015, Greenfield Hall NEW YORK

AUDIO6 – Performed by Tara Murphy, Alex Vickery, Kathy Corecig, and Anna Sarcich

This string quartet is centered around the concept of presence and the diverse emotions the human spirit traverses as it encounters traumatic experiences.
“I admire the way in which she conceived an idea, then used it in a concise and economical way as the germ from which the whole piece develops. Her grasp of form and structure is also very defined and concise, the work that emerged being very cohesive and articulately argued, with a distinctive palette of sound, colour, and sonority. In all respects her music for me is arresting, intriguing and very much her own.”– Peter Tanfield
PERFORMED:  20th September 2011, State Theatre Centre of Western Australia – Studio Underground
28th June 2010, The Ellington Jazz Club PERTH
BROADCAST: ABC Classic FM for the Totally Huge New Music Festival