(echoes of Ives' Unanswered Question)
for baritone and small orchestra
1984, rev. 1990
Instrumentation: baritone and small orchestra (2 flutes, oboe, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 trumpets, trombone, 2 percussion, piano, strings)
The tone of "Wanting the Impossible" is one of unanswered questions, secret desires, and whimsical musings. The text is assembled from a variety of famous quotations dealing with the impossible.
The piece is based on a five-note theme from "The Unanswered Question" of Charles Ives. This theme is woven throughout the fabric of the music and is asserted particularly in percussion interludes. As in the classic Ives piece, highly contrasting irreconcilable stylistic elements are juxtaposed and combined without a clear "winner" emerging. These range from a distorted classical symphony to a demented march, from a sentimental waltz to a pastoral musette.
The form of the piece is static and symmetrical, helping to project the mood of idle fancy. The appearance of the "symphony" at the center of the work is a reminder of the goal-orientation that is the antithesis of "Wanting the Impossible".
The text of the piece is given below. It was assembled by the composer from fragments from Carl Sandburg, Tertullian, Leo Tolstoy, Lenin, Rudyard Kipling, Matthew Arnold and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
To order a score and parts contact Terra Non Firma Press
Wanting the Impossible
Credo quia impossibile.
Pure sorrow is as impossible as pure joy.
The substitution of the proletarian state for the bourgeois state is impossible without a violent revolution.
I am the Prophet of the Utterly Absurd,
Of the Patently Impossible and Vain.
Still bent to make some port he knows not where,
Still standing for some false impossible shore.
How often have I said to you
that when you have eliminated the impossible,
whatever remains, however improbable,
must be the truth?