2018-2022 – song cycle for soprano voice and piano – 49:00
- Academy Awards of Expendable Meredith Hall (soprano), Brahm Goldhamer (piano), Susan Truxell Sauter (lyrics) 2:58
- Seduction Meredith Hall (soprano), Brahm Goldhamer (piano), Mary Heather Noble (lyrics) 3:05
- Digging Meredith Hall (soprano), Brahm Goldhamer (piano), Michelle Donahue (lyrics) 4:22
- An Orbital Tour of Cities at Night Meredith Hall (soprano), Brahm Goldhamer (piano), Rachel Morgan (lyrics) 2:19
- Earth Elegy Meredith Hall (soprano), Brahm Goldhamer (piano), Stephanie Schultz (lyrics) 3:09
- Lullaby in Fracktown Meredith Hall (soprano), Brahm Goldhamer (piano), Lilace Mellin Guignard (lyrics) 4:18
- Ag Land Meredith Hall (soprano), Brahm Goldhamer (piano), Wayne Mennecke (lyrics) 3:26
- Prophecy Meredith Hall (soprano), Brahm Goldhamer (piano), Mark Trechok (lyrics) 5:49
- For My Daughter Meredith Hall (soprano), Brahm Goldhamer (piano), Michelle Regalado Deatrick (lyrics) 3:36
- Shift Meredith Hall (soprano), Brahm Goldhamer (piano), Wayne Mennecke (lyrics) 4:50
- It Was an October Day Meredith Hall (soprano), Brahm Goldhamer (piano), Christine Pennylegion (lyrics) 3:24
- Homeland Security Meredith Hall (soprano), Brahm Goldhamer (piano), Alison Hawthorne Deming (lyrics) 3:32
- Phoenix Rising Meredith Hall (soprano), Brahm Goldhamer (piano), Kathleen Burke (lyrics) 4:23
World Premiere: April 14, 2023, Humbercrest United Church, Toronto, Canada
Meredith Hall (soprano), Brahm Goldhamer (piano)
Fractures is an expansive song cycle that draws its inspiration from the environmentally detrimental practice of hydraulic fracking. The genesis of this project can be traced back to 2016, when I was delivering a presentation on environmental music at the Canadian New Music Network Forum in Ottawa. After that event, I discovered the newly published FRACTURE anthology—a rich collection of essays, poems, and narratives that delve into the pressing issue of fracking in America. This discovery of texts became the driving force behind this creative endeavour.
Teaming up with my collaborator, soprano Meredith Hall, we curated lyrics from writers hailing from the US and Canada, some of whom have been directly affected by fracking. My goal was to ensure that each song possessed its unique narrative, yet collectively, the cycle weaved a compelling story, presenting different perspectives. As a result, you’ll find a diversity of styles and themes, with recurring motifs of fire and water serving as integral threads that unify the work.
Fracking often lingers on the periphery of discussions surrounding energy options, given the perception that natural gas offers a ‘cleaner’ alternative to other fossil fuels. However, delving deeper reveals the staggering resources and chemicals required for fracking, as well as its heart-wrenching impact on both the land and the communities residing near these operations. Through this song cycle, I aspire to humanize this issue by sharing varying perspectives and stories.
More about each Fractures Song:
1. Academy Awards of Expendable (words by Susan Truxell Sauter) – This text serves as an ideal choice for an opening song, as it skillfully portrays grandiose and vivid imagery, all the while employing a sardonic tone to deliver a striking commentary on the intricate relationship shared between society and the oil and gas industry.
2. Seduction (words by Mary Heather Noble) – After the extravagance of the first song, I aimed for this second one to adopt a lighter, friendly feel. It narrates the tale of a charming young man employed by Big Oil, paying a visit to a landowner in his quest to persuade them to permit fracking on their property – a timeless ‘making-a-deal-with-the-devil’ narrative.
3. Digging (words by Michelle Donahue) – The first of three epic songs within the cycle, I wanted this one to build dramatically, symbolizing the profound transformation we experience on our life journey – a progression from viewing life with innocent childlike wonder to wielding the formidable ability to unleash widescale devastation.
4. An orbital tour of cities at night (words by Rachel Morgan) – This tender and contemplative song establishes a link between the energy we routinely utilize in our daily lives and the methods employed to generate it. I aimed for the song to adopt a subtly poignant tone, mirroring the unassuming little actions within a household, while lamenting the harm inflicted by the production of the energy we often needlessly consume.
5. Earth Elegy (words by Stephanie Schultz) – This contemplative song delves into the profound impact that fracking exacts on both our physical well-being and mental health.
6. Lullaby in Fracktown (words by Lilace Mellin Guignard) – A sweetly vulnerable and heartfelt song that paints a picture of a mother’s comforting embrace as she reassures and consoles her young child. In this lyrical canvas, childlike innocence and imagery harmonize with the poignant reality that the child’s father, an oil and gas worker, finds himself in a necessary role to provide for their family.
7. Ag Land (words by Wayne Mennecke) – This song serves as a character study of a ‘roughneck’ oil and gas worker, quietly seated in a bar. The narrator watches this person with a sense of admiration, although their fascination is layered with complexity. As a result, the song’s rhythm alternates between a flirtatious swing beat and a somber, steady meter to capture the intricate allure of the scene.
8. Prophecy (words by Mark Trechok) – As the second of three epic songs in the cycle, this song commences with a triumphant piano fanfare reminiscent of the grandeur found at an Olympic opening ceremony. As the voice joins in, it delivers a stately anthem, albeit tinged with a subtle mockery that mirrors the polished corporate image often projected by the oil and gas industry. Gradually, the song takes on an ominous and foreboding tone, vividly describing the harsh realities of the destruction wrought by Big Oil. The piano steadily escalates in intensity, embracing dissonance to convey the horrors of this devastation. The song concludes with a macabre twist on the earlier prideful anthem, its tone solemn as it quotes a biblical verse that forewarns of an apocalyptic future, offering a chilling reflection on the world’s trajectory.
9. For My Daughter (words by Michelle Regalado Deatrick) – This is another song that portrays a mother’s deep contemplation, this time focused on the weighty consequences her actions may inflict upon her child’s future. She grapples with the enduring impact of her choices, should she persist in neglecting the environment in the present.
10. Shift (words by Wayne Mennecke) – This is the second comprehensive musical character study within the cycle, though this time it centers around a fellow science enthusiast and friend. In the first half of the song, we celebrate their remarkable sense of discovery and intelligence. However, as the song progresses, a palpable shift occurs. Some time later, we observe our subject’s demeanor darken, their once vibrant joy for life diminished. Why? It is the melancholic consequence of their current occupation, working for Big Oil, and the profound toll it exacts on the human spirit.
11. It Was An October Day (words by Christine Pennylegion) – I saw this emotional verse as an ideal follow-up to the second song, Seduction. It poignantly captures the prevalent experience of landowners who, after striking deals with Big Oil to permit fracking on their land, find themselves betrayed, violated, and in financial hardship. The vocals in this lament are profoundly heartfelt and unrestrained, while the piano accompaniment remains sparse, allowing the haunting emptiness of the situation to fully resonate.
12. Homeland Security (words by Alison Hawthorne Deming) – The final epic song in the cycle encapsulates the devastation wrought by extracting oil from the earth while resolutely asserting the necessity of military discipline to safeguard this plunder. The music resonates with an unwavering sense of pride, underscoring the belief that our magnificent planet is a treasure to be cherished and preserved.
13. Phoenix Rising (words by Kathleen Burke) – This serves as the epilogue to the cycle. It foresees a world destroyed by flames. Is it a foreshadowing of a future yet to come, or have we already arrived at this dire juncture? Instead of succumbing to sorrow over this outcome, this piece offers a serene reflection on the prospect of ecological and spiritual rebirth—a way for humanity to move forward.
– Frank Horvat
Commissioned by Meredith Hall with the financial support of the Ontario Arts Council and the SOCAN Foundation.
Album recording funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and FACTOR.