Be silent. At the edge
of the woods I do not hear
the human words you say;
I hear new words
spoken by droplets and leaves
far away. — from “La Pioggia nel Pineto” by Gabriele D’Annunzio
When Brendan McConville, an associate professor of music at UT, went to Italy on a Fulbright in 2016, he spent six months soaking up and recording the sounds of the country. During the program, he also translated those sounds into several original compositions based on the poetry of Gabriele D’Annunzio, the prized poet of the province of Abruzzo.
Those works will be featured in a faculty concert recital to be held at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 27, at the Sandra G. Powell Recital Hall in the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center on the UT campus. The event is free and open to the public.
Those performing at the recital will include Associate Professor Shelley Binder (flute); Chih-Long Hu, the Sandra G. Powell Endowed Professor of Piano; Associate Professor Lorraine DiSimone (voice); Associate Professor Andrew Skoog (voice); and Associate Professor Kevin Class (piano).
McConville’s Fulbright award allowed him to spend six months researching and teaching at the Luisa D’Annunzio Conservatory of Music, which was named after D’Annunzio’s mother.
Annachiara Mariani, McConville’s wife and a lecturer in UT’s Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures, is originally from Abruzzo and introduced him to D’Annunzio’s poems years ago.
The concert will feature three of McConville’s works:
“La Meditazione del Merlo” (“The Blackbird’s Meditation”), a piece based on the song of the Italian merlo, or common blackbird. “Its birdsong was recorded in various locations of Italy, slowed down, and transcribed to generate many points of departure for melodic ideas in the work,” McConville said. “A cool, gentle wind persisted during the recordings and became a part of the melodic fabric. The work explores the interaction of the natural wind with this beautiful birdsong heard throughout the Italian countryside.” As requested by the commissioning duo, the piece is traditionally tonal with some jazz influence and extended techniques.
“Vorrei” (“I would like”) is a setting of a poem by D’Annunzio. The piece was commissioned by Italian soprano Manuela Formichella for the D’Annunzio International Arts Festival in 2013 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of D’Annunzio’s birth. Formichella requested a new version of the original musical setting by Italian composer Francesco Paolo Tosti. McConville reset the piece and describes it as a modern homage to 19th-century Italian salon music.
“Quattro Canzoni da La Pioggia nel Pineto” (“Four Songs from The Rain in the Pine Forest”), the final work, is a 30-minute four-movement piece for soprano, tenor, piano, and live fixed electronic sounds based on D’Annunzio’s four-part poem “La Pioggia nel Pineto.” This piece was McConville’s focus in Italy.
Immediately after being introduced to D’Annunzio’s poems, McConville found several musical qualities in the text. Nature can be heard all over the poem through singing cicadas, birds, rain splashing on a variety of trees, and crashing waves.
McConville traveled throughout Abruzzo, Tuscany, and the town of Pescara, recording sounds of the rain and the pine forests neighboring D’Annunzio’s home—the place that inspired many of the poet’s works. From these recordings and his studies, he endeavored to put the poet’s words to music.
McConville, who has a doctorate in music theory and composition from Rutgers University and has worked at UT since 2007, researches 20th-century music and the use of emerging technologies in teaching music. He has published in a number of music journals and has published his own music. His recordings are available from ERMmedia and Navona Records. Works featured at the upcoming performance will be released on an album titled Un D’annunzio Nuovo from Wide Classique, an Italian classical label, this summer.
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, email@example.com)