Waking in New York


a musical portrait of Allen Ginsberg
Poems by Allen Ginsberg Music by Elodie Lauten
Produced by Elodie Lauten


Mark Duer, baritone

Mary Hurlbut, soprano

Laura Wolfe, mezzo soprano

Mustafa Ahmed, percussion

Matthew Fieldes, double bass

Elodie Lauten, synthesizer

Steven Hall, electric guitar

The Sirius String Quartet with:

Juliann Klopotic, violin

Maxim Moston, violin

Ron Lawrence, viola

Tomas Ulrich, cello

The late Allen Ginsberg chose this set of poems on the theme of New York suggested by Elodie Lauten for a musical setting, during the summer of 96 from Cosmopolitan Greetings 1986-1992, Collected Poems 1947-1980, and White Shroud Poems 1980-1989. These three books are currently available, published by Harper Collins. The poems are highly autobiographical. They reveal some of Allen’s most intimate thoughts - there is a secret in this selection, there is a legacy, a special message he left to be disseminated - because New York was to him like a second skin.

Waking in New York is scored for baritone, soprano and mezzo soprano, percussion, double bass, string quartet and flute. It is Ginsberg’s flow of mental associations that trigger rhythm changes and key modulations, but the mood is translated in the general pattern arrangement. The melodies follows the text very closely not only in terms of its own rhythm but in terms of its meaning, which can lead to some quick and unexpected musical transformations. The first act sets two major autobiographical poems, May Days 1988 and The Charnel Ground, with the brief distraction of Lunchtime in between - as in a typical New York workday. The second act sets three short pieces, Jumping the Gun on the Sun, Manhattan Thirties Flash and "Song" (from Howl), all three quite varied in their feel, and the title piece, Waking in New York. This particular poem is so rich and complex that it was set in three separate sections with different tempos and key signatures. Noteworthy highlights are: a reference to the Kennedy assassination, anthems, such as "O New York, O now our bird, flying past glass window chirp, our life together here" and the final hymn of mercy, "that all beggars be fed, all dying medicined, all loveless tomorrow be loved, well come and be balm". There are settings of mantras Lauten says she learned from Allen himself while performing with him. "The Buddhist idea of compassion", she says, "is very important in relation to Allen. His entire thinking process is compassion in itself - he looks at people and feels their struggle. I tried to stay close to Allen’s train of thought, alternatively introspective and expansive, sometimes triggering hints of different musical styles, but twice removed, not as direct quotes. It was like making film music with images provided by his consciousness - until the melody found its way of taking over."

Allen Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1926, the son of the well-known lyric poet and teacher Louis Ginsberg. As a student at Columbia College in the 1940s, he began a close friendship with William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac, and became associated with the Beat movement and the San Francisco Renaissance in the 1950s. After jobs as a laborer, sailor, and market researcher, Ginsberg published his first book of poetry, Howl and Other Poems, in 1956. Howl overcame censorship trials to become one of the most widely read poems of the century, translated into more than twenty-two languages, a model for younger generations of poets from West to East. Crowned Prague May King in 1965, then expelled by Czech police and simultaneously placed in the FBI’s Dangerous Security list, Ginsberg has, in recent years, traveled to and taught in the People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe, receiving Yugoslavia’s Struga Poetry Festival "Golden Wreath" in 1986. A member of the American Institute of Arts and Letters and co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute, the first accredited Buddhist college in the Western world, Ginsberg lived on New York’s Lower East Side. He died in April 1997 at age 70.

Mark Duer, baritone will perform the role of Allen Ginsberg. Mr. Duer has been heard in operatic and musical theater roles with the New York Chamber Ensemble, Berkshire Choral Festival, Piccolo Teatro dell Opera, Ash Lawn-Highland Opera, New York’s Ensemble for Early Music, and as soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, Musica Sacra, Pro Arte Connecticut, Masterworks Chorale, West Virginia Symphony, Larry Parons Chorale and the Virgin Consort. In 1997 he sang his debut at Weill Recital Hall, with Downtown Music Productions, performing contemporary song literature by Frederick Koch. He made his debut performance at Carnegie Hall last year in Mozart’s Coronation Mass. He has sung with Christopher Hogwood’s Handel & Haydn Society and is a member of the acclaimed virtuoso a capella ensemble Pomerium.

He has recorded on Gothic, Delos and Deutsche Gramophone /Archiv, and has been heard in television and radio broadcasts including CBS Sunday Morning, NBC’s Today Show and Pipedreams on NPR.The New York Concert Review praised his "marvelous diction and musicality".

Laura Wolfe, mezzo soprano, will perform the role of Compassion. Laura Wolfe began performing and studying violin, piano and guitar at a young age. Accomplished as a singer, songwriter and guitarist, Laura has performed widely both in the United States and abroad. She regularly appears in New York clubs including the Knitting Factory, CBGB’s Gallery, Dark Star and Fast Folk Café. She has sung at Carnegie Hall and the Tribeca Performing Arts Center as a featured soloist with the Lavender Light Gospel Choir. She toured Europe with the Broadway production of Hair.

Mary Hurlbut, soprano, will perform the role of Freedom. Ms. Hurlbut has performed with the American Festival of Microtonal Music, the New Music Consort, the Cygnus Ensemble, the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble, Opera Off Broadway,the Empire State Opera, the American Landmark Festival Series, the Soho Baroque Opera Company, the New Jersey Chorale and with well-know master flutist Andrew Bolotowsky. Mary Hurlbut has acquired a solid reputation as a performer of challenging contemporary repertoire. She has worked with Elodie Lauten since 1987 and starred in the first production of Lauten’s multimedia opera The Death of Don Juan. Recently she premiered Lauten’s The Deus Ex Machina Cycle at Merkin Hall and is featured in a Lauten/Carnahan collaboration on the CD recording The Time is Now (Frog Peak Music).

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© 2011 Elodie Lauten; designed by Henry Lowengard
update: Aug 28, 200