Text from "I'm Nobody! Who are you?" by Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)
solo voice (±C4–G5) and three metal objects | for Dory Hayley | $10.00
Sometimes, as a composer, I come across a text that I really want to work with, but don't know quite how to apply it. When Dory Hayley approached me with an opportunity to compose a solo voice work, I knew I'd finally found the way to set this melancholic and oxymoronic Dickinson poem. I reinterpreted her description of "nobody" in a context of my dysphoria—as exploring identity and self has been a major part of my experience of transness. I guess, for me, this work lets out some of the cathartic rage of just not knowing who I am.
Techniques and Instrumentation:
Percussion: the singer should have three similar metal objects to play while singing. These could be pieces of scrap metal, gongs, high/medium/ low clusters on a toy piano, or whatever feels right to the singer. The metal objects should
be played by the singer, not by a second performer.
Improvisation: at the end of the piece, some modest graphic scoring is provided in the voice part. The singer should improvise wildly on the word "nobody" and optionally including other lines from the poem and/or their own words. This should feel like a release of pent-up frustration, and should be quite physical and cathartic.
I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us—don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!