Sewing the Earthworm
« [Harman’s] music is uncompromisingly modern … [building] up tension in a kind of suspended time » – Opera Ramblings
« [Brock’s] poems leap from the page directly at your jugular. » – Michael Dennis, Today’s Book of Poetry
Sewing the Earthworm is an innovative song cycle by composer Brian Harman and writer David James Brock. Combining elements of poetry, drama, opera and new music, the piece explores a woman’s loss of physical control over her body and the effect this has on her mental stability.
The character in Sewing the Earthworm is inspired by 1970s punk rock icon Wendy O. Williams, and dramatizes a private frustration as she looks back on a fragmented life, from the radical punk aesthetic to champion of environmental issues, before her suicide in 1998.
Harman’s music translates Brock’s corporeal imagery into vivid music for voice and piano. The female character performs many physical tasks to « prove » her abilities: gardening, gathering earthworms, threading a needle and stitching the earthworm together. Harman’s music employs a variety of extended techniques for the voice in order to portray these activities, and many sides of this intriguing character — from distracted, dreamy humming to frustrated grunting — and has the pianist pluck and strum inside the piano to illustrate Brock’s evocative garden environment. The cycle also features interludes between the main scenes, enveloping the listener in a dreamy sonic environment.
To read the poetry that represents the lyrics for this song cycle on David James Brock’s website, please click here.